"Ultimately, Twitter’s service is so confused and undifferentiated in the market that it’s increasingly difficult to make a clear case for its existence. There are a small handful of features Facebook might add, or a separate app that it could easily create (as it did with Messenger and the photo-sharing stand-alone feature Moments) that would provide a similar but more consistent experience, with vastly more reach than anything the company can provide today (or tomorrow, for that matter). This is especially notable to all of us in the world of media, the people who fill these services with highly valuable and hotly traded “content,” such as the piece you’re currently reading. Social media is a scale game or a product game, and Twitter is failing at both."The End of Twitter - The New Yorker
Friday, January 29, 2016
From a stark Twitter reality check; also see Mossberg: Twitter has become secret-handshake software (The Verge)
Later in the article: "Excluding the impact of foreign-currency exchange rates, revenue from Azure in the second quarter rose 140 percent, and sales of Office 365 increased almost 70 percent, the company said." For more on Microsoft's expectations-management skills, see Microsoft Profit and Revenue Fall, but Cloud Computing Grows (NYT)
"Revenue from Azure -- Microsoft’s platform that sells data-center based computing power and services -- more than doubled as customers signed up for pricier offerings that can handle machine learning and process large reams of information. Subscriptions for Office 365 productivity software also lured both businesses and consumers, and even Windows sales came in better than the overall PC market, fueled by the adoption of Windows 10.Microsoft Tops Estimates Amid Nadella's Cloud Transformation - Bloomberg Business
The gains add to optimism that Chief Executive Officer Nadella can revitalize growth by focusing on Web-based services and productivity applications. More than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies are now using at least two different Microsoft cloud services, Nadella said on Thursday. His plan to focus on apps for rival platforms is also attracting users, with 340 million downloads of Office apps on Apple Inc.’s iOS and Google’s Android."
Out-of-this-world disruption; in other Elon Musk news, see the latest Bloomberg Businessweek cover story, Who Owns the Sun?
"“It didn’t happen for 10 years,” he said. “Because in each and every case, no matter how exciting exploring the unknown is, or the grandeur of space tourism, none of them penciled out, economically.”Why investors are following Musk, Bezos in betting on the stars - The Washington Post
None of them until he met with Musk, who had detailed plans on how he would upend the space industry as he had with online commerce at PayPal. Rocket technology had stayed relatively stagnant for decades, with very few new entrants into the market. Innovation, which had disrupted virtually every industry, from cable to taxis, was somehow lacking in space.
SpaceX and others have shown that “the commercial space industry is enormous and ripe for disruption,” Jurvetson said. “Making a 100-fold improvement is actually a piece of cake, and making a thousand-fold improvement is feasible.”"
Reason 3 of 5: AWS grew only 69%... For a parallel universe take on Amazon's latest quarter, see Amazon rings up strong sales and profit growth in the holiday quarter (in the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post)
"Amazon’s Cloud Computing sales and profits also failed to live up to the hype.5 Reasons Investors Are Racing Out of Amazon.com - Digits - WSJ
Investors have been looking at cloud computing or the Amazon Web Services unit as key source of profit growth. Sales jumped and so did operating profits, but both fell below expectations.
Sales in the AWS division sales jumped 69% to $2.4 billion and operating profits rise to $687 million from $240 million. Yet, analysts were forecasting revenue gains of at least 70%."
Perhaps time for a revised edition of Fumbling the Future
"As part of the move, billionaire Mr. Icahn will get three seats on the services company’s board, the people said. Mr. Icahn in November disclosed a stake in Xerox and said he would seek talks with the company about its future. With an 8.1% stake in the company, Mr. Icahn’s hedge fund is now the second-largest shareholder after index giant Vanguard Group.Xerox to Split in Two; Carl Icahn to Get Three Board Seats - WSJ
Xerox, which generates about $20 billion in annual sales, has a market value that is less than half its annual sales. The shares lost a quarter of their value last year and have shed an additional 13% so far this year, ending Thursday at $9.23."
Hopefully the Parse team received stock when their company was acquired; FB closed at ~$109 yesterday
"At one point, Facebook was willing to take those risks. When Facebook bought Parse in 2013, Facebook’s stock was below its initial public offering price of $38. The company had not grown a robust mobile advertising yet, and Facebook was eager to seek out other lines of business in hopes of future profits, according to two people with knowledge of the company’s plans at the time who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the company.Facebook to Shut Down Parse, Its Platform for Mobile Developers - The New York Times
Parse seemed like a good opportunity for expansion. At the time, Internet businesses were in the midst of a major industry change, as users were shifting away from desktop computing and increasingly relying on mobile devices. Parse, the thinking went, could provide Facebook the opportunity to be the foundation of a whole new generation of developers building mobile apps in the age of the smartphone."
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Press to rage
"Facebook Reactions won’t get rid of like—it will be an extension. Within the company, there was some debate on how to add the options without making every post look crowded with things to click. The simpler Facebook is to use, the more people will use it. Zuckerberg had a solution: Just display the usual thumbs-up button under each post, but if someone on her smartphone presses down on it a little longer, the other options will reveal themselves. Cox’s team went with that and added animation to clarify their meaning, making the yellow emojis bounce and change expression. The angry one turns red, looking downward in rage, for example. Once people click their responses, the posts in News Feed show a tally of how many wows, hahas, and loves each generated."Inside Facebook’s Decision to Blow Up the Like Button
Oracle says goodbye to Java browser plugin in JDK 9 - CSO | The Resource for Data Security Executives
Write once, run nowhere; also see Rest In Hell, Java Plug-In (Gizmodo)
"Oracle will finally deprecate its Java browser plugin in the next release of the Java SE Development Kit, JDK 9, which is scheduled for release in 2017.Oracle says goodbye to Java browser plugin in JDK 9 - CSO | The Resource for Data Security Executives
The Java browser plugin and other software that use NPAPI (the old Netscape Plugin API), such as Adobe’s Flash and Microsoft’s Silverlight, have posed security risks for desktop browsers for years. And for security and performance reasons, desktop browser makers have gradually pulled support for the API.
Oracle on Wednesday announced it will move with the times and deprecate support for its 21 year old platform that supported web “applets”.
“Oracle plans to deprecate the Java browser plugin in JDK 9. This technology will be removed from the Oracle JDK and JRE in a future Java SE release,” Oracle announced on Wednesday."
Microsoft pushes *Box further into the (optional) feature side of the product ... feature continuum
"Business users who rely on cloud storage providers like Dropbox and Box now have some improved tools in their collaboration arsenal, thanks to a set of integrations that Microsoft announced Wednesday.Box, Dropbox users can now edit Office documents together in real time | PCWorld
Starting Wednesday, Office Online users can work in real time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations shared inside Box, Dropbox, Citrix ShareFile and Egnyte. That means those folks who don't use Microsoft's systems to store their files will still be able to use the Office web apps to work together on the same file all at once.
The real-time, co-authoring feature was already available for people who used Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint."
Continuing expansion of the Yahoo alumni club
"Of course, earnings will be as lackluster as ever, said insiders, especially since the company has continued to lose a series of sales execs, especially at its BrightRoll programmatic video advertising platform after its one-year acquisition cliff as reached. For example, sources said Craig Whitmer, VP of platform sales, is headed out the door, along with a half dozen more important staffers in the unit.Yahoo Restructuring Begins Slowly With Stealth Layoffs and “Invest/Maintain/Kill” List | Re/code
Despite layoffs, this kind of brain drain of needed talent is happening at all levels, even those close to Mayer. Consider Shweta Vohra, who worked on strategy for Mayer directly and is now chief of staff to CEO Evan Williams of Medium."
No need for concern, said the acquiree CEO
"Tucci said EMC remains confident that Dell and its partner Silver Lake will have no difficulty raising the financing required to complete the buyout. Dell has proposed to raise nearly $50 billion in debt to pay for EMC. A falling appetite for corporate debt among bond investors, combined with the 15 percent decline in EMC’s share price since the deal was first announced on Oct. 12, has triggered worries that the terms might run into difficulties.As Dell Buyout Looms, EMC Reports Flat Q4 Results | Re/code
“We are highly confident in the contractual terms we have in place, that we will meet those contractual terms. There are significant penalties in place both ways if this doesn’t happen. The banks are fully committed,” to fund the debt placement, Tucci said."
Out of the box thinking; also see It’s Time to Unlock the Set-Top Box Market (Re/code article by Tom Wheeler); tangentially, see Hate your cable company? Superfast, wireless Internet is coming (CNet)
"The F.C.C., though, said its focus was on improving people’s television experience. The clunky technology of cable boxes, and the burdensome requirements of long-term contracts, have long been a source of customer complaints. Tech companies like Apple and Amazon make devices that connect to televisions and have new interfaces, but they provide streaming Internet video and do not replace the cable box.F.C.C. Proposes Changes in Cable Set-Top Box Market - The New York Times
“It’s time to unlock the set-top box market — let’s let innovators create, and then let consumers choose,” Tom Wheeler, chairman of the F.C.C., wrote of the proposal on the technology news site Recode. The F.C.C. estimates that prices for the devices rose 185 percent over 20 years, even as prices for smartphones and other electronics plunged."
Way to Go
"Artificial intelligence researchers are closing in on a new benchmark for comparing the human mind and a machine. On Wednesday, DeepMind, a research organization that operates under the umbrella of Alphabet, reported that a program combining two separate algorithms had soundly defeated a high-ranking professional Go player in a series of five matches.Alphabet Program Beats the European Human Go Champion - The New York Times
The result, which appeared in the Jan. 27 edition of the journal Nature, is further evidence of the power created when a class of A.I. machine learning programs known as “deep neural networks” is combined with immense sets of data."
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Also see Facebook Building a Network for Virtual Reality (NYT)
"Facebook’s results offer a bright spot in a tumultuous climate for many American technology stocks. Shares of Twitter, Facebook’s most visible social networking competitor in the United States, have tumbled more than 55 percent over the last year. Yelp, the local-review service, is down around 60 percent. LinkedIn, the professional social networking service, is off about 19 percent.Facebook Sales Soar 52%, Eclipsing Forecasts - The New York Times
Unlike its contemporaries, however, Facebook enjoys regular visitor numbers and revenue growth that show no signs of stumbling. Facebook now has 1.59 billion monthly visitors, up 14 percent from a year earlier. Some 1.44 billion of those people visit the site from a mobile device; 1.04 billion visit Facebook every day."
An intriguing Quora experiment; check the full post for more details including some of the early prize questions
"We've heard from many people that they use Quora to get answers to questions that really matter to them. Quora provides access to an unparalleled set of millions of experts, including engineers, researchers, professors, doctors, business leaders, lawyers, aviation experts, even a few astronauts, and many other experts in specialized fields. When a question gets the attention of the most insightful experts on Quora, the answer is frequently better than anything else you could find. But people ask a vast number of questions on Quora every day, and the most insightful experts are inherently scarce, so it can be hard for the most important questions to stand out.(1) Knowledge Prizes: Unlock answers to important q... - The Quora Blog - Quora
Knowledge Prizes allow a sponsor to signal that they think a question is particularly important by offering a financial prize for the best new answer. We imagine each prize as being sort of like a mini XPRIZE for knowledge; aimed at questions that a knowledgeable expert will be excited to answer publicly, and that many people will find interesting. A prize winner can keep the money or donate it to charity; initially either Stand Up To Cancer or GiveDirectly."
A timely Apple reality check
"It’s true that in an earnings report on Tuesday, after weeks of speculation by Wall Street that iPhone sales would finally hit a peak, Apple confirmed the news: IPhone sales grew at their lowest-ever rate in the last quarter. And the company projected total sales of as much as $53 billion in the current quarter that ends in March, which would be a decline of 8.6 percent from last year and Apple’s first revenue drop in more than a decade.No Need to Fret, Apple Is Doing Fine - The New York Times
But if Apple is now hitting a plateau, it’s important to remember that it’s one of the loftiest plateaus in the history of business. The $18.4 billion profit that Apple reported on Tuesday is the most ever earned by any company in a single quarter."
Getting closer to realizing the transclusion vision, ~35 years after Ted Nelson coined the term (and closer to ~50 years since he introduced the concept); in other news news, see Microsoft's new iOS app serves up news stories based on your job (Mashable)
"The move would differentiate Apple News from Facebook's Instant Articles news offering, which does not offer subscriber-only content, and would likely give Apple a boost as it seeks to distinguish itself from a growing crowd of online news apps.Apple plans to offer subscription content through News app | Reuters
The move comes as news publishers try to figure out how to work with Apple and Facebook Inc , which are important distributors of news content to their hundreds of millions of users, but at the same time are getting between publishers and their readers.
By making paid content available through its News app, Apple would give publishers a way to maintain relationships with readers and perhaps attract new subscribers."
Later in the article: "Netflix said it plans to spend a jaw-dropping $6 billion this year on content, including more than 600 hours of original films and TV."
"For years, streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix have fought unsuccessfully for a place at the table of one of the film world's most lucrative events, aiming to compete with traditional distributors who buy and advertise the movies in hopes of pocketing box-office profits.How scared is Hollywood of Netflix and Amazon? - The Washington Post
But now, surprisingly, the streaming giants are starting to win, the latest sign that the tech giants' deep pockets and fast-growing ambitions are making them real players in the movie business — and raising fresh questions over how the industry hopes to compete with Big Stream."
Results from a test with 16 common tasks
"In the end, none of the voice assistants earned a report card that would make a strict parent proud. Here’s how they stacked up in terms of grade-point averages out of 4.0.Siri, Alexa and Other Virtual Assistants Put to the Test - The New York Times
• Google’s Google — 3.1
• Apple’s Siri — 2.9
• Microsoft’s Cortana — 2.3
• Amazon’s Alexa — 1.7
Apple was the strongest at productivity tasks like calendar appointments and email; Google was the best at travel and commute-related tasks. Alexa excelled at music, and Cortana was mediocre across the board. Facebook was left out of the grading system because the company denied access to M, though I did hang out with her for two hours on a friend’s account. More on that later."
Stadium "network issues" highlighted the extent to which the tablets have become mission-critical for NFL teams
"But Mehdi isn't discouraged. He said Surface use continues to grow, citing testimonials by teams such as the Green Bay Packers. Even Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing a Surface in frustration in November, and Johnny Manziel, Cleveland’s quarterback, smashing one against his head repeatedly after throwing an interception a month later, aren't enough to discourage Microsoft's cheery marketing veteran:Microsoft Says Network to Blame for NFL Sunday Surface Snafu - Bloomberg Business
It’s "further evidence of two things: 1) players are getting information faster, even if they don’t always like what they see and 2) these devices were built to endure just about anything, even Johnny Manziel’s head.""
Later in the article: also "talking with Uber about teaming up"
"The software will add thousands of new drivers into Waze’s traffic and guidance system. Lyft has 315,000 active drivers who spend more time in their cars than the average commuter. Genesis Pulse guides more than 500 emergency vehicles that collectively traveled about 13.2 million miles last year. JustPark has more than half a million users of its parking app.Waze to Scoop up More Data through New Partnerships - Digits - WSJ
Like Waze’s 50 million existing users, these new drivers will share their locations passively and anonymously. That means more traffic data for Waze to improve its real-time route suggestions.
“The amount of data will grow significantly because of these new drivers,” said Amir Mirzaee, head of business development at Waze. He declined to estimate the potential increase, but said the influx will be particularly helpful in suburban areas of the U.S. and in other countries where Waze has fewer existing users."
Accentuating the positive
"Chief Executive Tim Cook called it “one of the largest service businesses in the world,” adding, “I do think that it’s probably something that the investment community would want to and should focus more on.”Apple Highlights Its Services, In Nod to Wall Street - Digits - WSJ
For the first time, Apple put a number on its user base: In the past 90 days, Apple said, roughly one billion devices – including iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, Apple Watches, Mac computers and iPods — connected to services such as the App Store, iTunes Store and Apple Pay.
Those one billion devices generated $5.5 billion in services revenue for Apple during the three months ended Dec. 26, an increase of 15% from the same period a year earlier. Excluding service contracts bought with a new device, Apple said the quarterly services revenue would be $4.7 billion."
Not a great week for Twitter so far
"The move is a bit of salt in the wound for Twitter, which is was already losing a number of key executives, and now has at least one headed to a direct competitor. Contrary to numerous reports, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Sunday night that all of Twitter’s executive departures were resignations, including Weil’s. If Instagram was indeed recruiting Weil for months, that seems to support Dorsey’s message. It may also be why sources inside the company tell Re/code that it appeared Weil’s responsibilities were scaled back following company-wide layoffs in October."Twitter’s Kevin Weil Joins Instagram | Re/code
Also see Tim Cook: We're Seeing 'Extreme Conditions Unlike Anything We've Experienced Before' in the Global Economy (BloombergBusiness). Next up with earnings reports: Facebook and eBay today, Amazon and Microsoft tomorrow
"The iPhone fueled Apple’s ascendance into the world’s most valuable company. But even iPhone sales have their limits.Apple Says Sales of iPhones Have Slowed - The New York Times
Apple on Tuesday reported results for its fiscal first quarter that showed iPhone sales rose less than 1 percent from a year earlier, the slowest year-over-year growth rate ever for the device, which accounts for about two-thirds of the company’s revenue. Apple also issued a sales forecast that signaled that the sluggishness would continue, with the company projecting its first revenue decline in more than a decade."
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Later in the article: "Microsoft actually released CNTK, which is similar in many ways to Google’s TensorFlow, back in April, months before Google released its own framework, but the code was restricted to non-commercial use." Also see How Microsoft Plans to Beat Google and Facebook to the Next Tech Breakthrough (BloombergBusiness)
"The company has open sourced the artificial intelligence framework it uses to power speech recognition in its Cortana digital assistant and Skype Translate applications. This means that anyone in the world is now free to view, modify, and use Microsoft’s code in their own software.Microsoft Open Sources Its Artificial Brain to One-Up Google | WIRED
The framework, called, CNTK, is based on a branch of artificial intelligence called deep learning, which seeks to help machines do things like recognize photos and videos or understanding human speech by mimicking the structure and functions of the human brain. Tech giants like Microsoft, Google and Facebook have invested heavily in deep learning research for years, going so far as to hire many of academics who pioneered the field. Now, just as academics publish their research so that it can be critiqued and advanced by other researchers, these companies are releasing their deep learning software in much the same way."
Not such good luck for VMware shareholders
"If nothing else, EMC’s report will remind its shareholders how they lucked out last fall when Dell offered to acquire the company in a deal worth $67 billion. As of Friday’s close, EMC was worth about $20 billion less than that. Since then, the shares of both EMC and its software subsidiary VMware have fallen: EMC by 13 percent and VMware by more than 38 percent.EMC Reports Q4 As Anxiety Rises About Dell Buyout | Re/code
That fact, coupled with intensifying anxieties about the state of the corporate debt markets, has triggered some concerns that Dell’s takeover plan, which hinges on raising more than $40 billion in debt, might run into trouble."
Glad to know this was on the agenda at the World Economic Forum meeting last week, and that groups such as the Future of Life Institute are pursuing bans
"Autonomous weapons haven’t surfaced in the mainstream but loom on the horizon as the technology behind them is young, but rapidly advancing. Based on existing technology, the weapons could be able to independently find and kill enemies, so that a country doesn’t put its humans in harm’s way. The weapons may arrive in a variety of forms, including small drones or robot soldiers.If killer robots arrive, the Terminator will be the least of our problems - The Washington Post
“Being attacked by an army of Terminators is a piece of cake when compared to being attacked by this kind of weapon,” said Stuart Russell, a computer science professor at the University of California-Berkeley. “We’re [talking] about systems that weigh less than an ounce, that can fly faster than a person can run, can blow holes in their heads with one gram of shape-charge explosive, and can be launched in the millions.”"
Revenue impact tbd from Prime customers who are too busy binge-watching Amazon Prime Video shows to buy and read Kindle books...
"The Seattle online retailer is estimated to have had 54 million U.S. Prime members at the end of 2015, up 35% from 40 million a year earlier, according to an analysis from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. But the coveted customers appear to be spending less.Has Amazon Reached Peak ‘Prime’? - Digits - WSJ
Chicago-based CIRP estimated Prime members spend about $1,100 on average per year, down from $1,500 per year in 2014. Non-Prime members accounted for about $600 in spending on average, compared with $625 the year prior.
And the rate of growth in signups slowed to 35% from 54% in 2014, according to CIRP’s estimates."
Could be worse... Also see What Analysts Are Saying About Twitter’s Overhaul of Its Top Ranks (WSJ)
"Add Twitter’s market meltdown — the company’s stock now trades about a third below where it went public in 2013 — and Mr. Dorsey’s creation looks vulnerable. Moreover, unlike at many tech businesses, there’s no dominant or super-voting shareholder able to block takeover attempts. Google, Facebook or a more traditional media company could perhaps be tempted to buy Twitter.Twitter’s Turmoil May Invite Takeover Attempts - The New York Times
That might be a better outcome than a fate like Yahoo’s. The company squandered its moment in the sun and ended up struggling with its core businesses and looking for new ideas under a series of chief executives, the latest being Marissa Mayer. Twitter has not reached that point yet, but the possibility should focus Mr. Dorsey’s mind on the need for greater stability."
Monday, January 25, 2016
From a Jean-Louis Gassée Apple perspective; see the full post for links and more details
"As Apple’s fortunes have increased, pundits have begun to exclaim that the company depends too much on the iPhone (here; here; here). If iPhone units and revenue can no longer grow, Wall Street will begin to doubt…and that means discounted Apple shares.Watching Apple’s First Fiscal 2016 Quarter | Monday Note
It sounds logical but let’s not forget the example and reality of increasing Mac sales and profits in the saturated and declining PC market. The market may be saturated, but Apple’s portion isn’t. The iPhone commands a small unit market share, around 12% (231M units in Fiscal 2015, over Gartner’s total estimate of 1.9B devices).
Can the iPhone captivate a saturated segment a la the Mac? That’s a discussion I’d like to hear."
Conclusion from an Android reality check
"It may sound like I’m denigrating what Google’s Android has accomplished. Nothing could be further from the truth.Who Won The Smartphone Wars: Google Or Apple? | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
Android absolutely and overwhelming achieved its strategic objective. It gutted Microsoft’s business model and provided Google with access to the then burgeoning mobile marketplace.
But, let’s keep things in perspective. Just because Google won with Android, doesn’t mean it won nearly as much as Apple did with the iPhone. Android kept Google from being locked out of mobile. With the introduction of the iPhone, Apple went from being just another fortune 500 company to one of the largest, most successful companies in the free world. If that ain’t winning, what is?"
Also see New Apple hire suggests increased interest in immersive virtual reality (Apple Insider)
"Apple’s MO is to sit back and see if a product has real interest by consumers and then apply their engineering, industrial design, services, and retail might to a product with the goal of making it the best of breed solution in the market. So, should Apple jump on the VR bandwagon anytime soon? Given their history, I don’t see that happening in the near future nor would I advise it. This is a developing market that needs flushing out. On the other hand, the way they attack markets that show promise makes it possible that, while others will try and get their product adopted by consumers quickly, Apple could be the one that actually delivers a solid hardware, software, and services ecosystem. No matter when they jump in, they could become a powerful leader in this space if they wanted to."Should Apple Jump on the VR Bandwagon? | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
Sunday, January 24, 2016
A busy weekend for Twitter's management team
"Several of Twitter’s top executives are leaving in a major shakeup at the social media giant.Several top execs leaving Twitter as company to add new board members - GeekWire
Recode reported on Sunday that Twitter’s head of engineering, head of media, and head of product are on their way out, with an official announcement reportedly coming from the company on Monday.
Recode also noted that head of Twitter-owned Vine, Jason Toff, is leaving, adding to a number of changes it described as “Twittermageddon.”"
From a review of two recent movies and one book about Steve Jobs
"The magic Jobs was selling went beyond the products his company made: it infused the story he told about himself. Even as a multimillionaire, and then a billionaire, even after selling out friends and collaborators, even after being caught back-dating stock options, even after sending most of Apple’s cash offshore to avoid paying taxes, Jobs sold himself as an outsider, a principled rebel who had taken a stand against the dominant (what he saw as mindless, crass, imperfect) culture. You could, too, he suggested, if you allied yourself with Apple. It was this sleight of hand that allowed consumers to believe that to buy a consumer good was to do good—that it was a way to change the world. “The myths surrounding Apple is for a company that makes phones,” the journalist Joe Nocera tells Gibney. “A phone is not a mythical device. It makes you wonder less about Apple than about us.”"The Real Legacy of Steve Jobs by Sue Halpern | The New York Review of Books
Also see Looking for Signs That Apple’s Runaway Growth Is Waning (NYT)
"Alphabet could soon become the most valuable company in the world.Alphabet Close to Overtaking Apple as Most Valuable Company - The New York Times
The Google powerhouse traded on Friday morning with an equity value above $500 billion, less than 10 percent shy of Apple’s value. Investors value the search firm’s earnings from rapidly growing digital advertising more than twice as highly as Apple’s in a saturating smartphone market. Wall Street, however, may be overlooking Alphabet’s risks."
Final paragraph from a stark collaboration reality check
"What can be done to restore balance in a world gone collaboration-mad? Few people have the freedom of a Franzen or a Feynman to unplug themselves from the world. But employees—particularly young ones—need to recognise the long-term costs of working in a constant state of distraction. The HBR article points out that there is an overlap of only 50% between “the top collaborative contributors in any organisation and those individuals deemed to be the top performers.” About 20% of company stars keep themselves to themselves. So organisations need to do more to recognise that the amount of time workers have available is finite, that every request to attend a meeting or engage in an internet discussion leaves less time for focused work and that seemingly small demands on people’s time can quickly compound into big demands. Helping people to collaborate is a wonderful thing. Giving them the time to think is even better."The collaboration curse | The Economist
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Tbd if he was driven out... Also see Apple's 'Project Titan' chief to reportedly leave company, car team under pressure (Apple Insider)
"The veteran Apple executive overseeing the company’s not-so-stealth electric car project is leaving the company.Apple’s Car Project Leader Is Leaving | Re/code
Steve Zadesky, a former Ford Motor engineer who has overseen the car project for the last two years, and who tripled the size of Apple’s automotive team, is leaving the company for personal reasons, according to The Wall Street Journal. A person familiar the matter confirmed the departure."
Jeff Bezos launches and lands again in another first for booming space industry - The Washington Post
A very expensive game of one-upmanship
"Two months after Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin launched a rocket just past the boundary of space and then recovered it in a soft landing, the space company repeated the feat Friday with the same rocket in another breakthrough for the booming commercial space industry.Jeff Bezos launches and lands again in another first for booming space industry - The Washington Post
In a video posted on its website, the company said its New Shepard vehicle made history when it became the first rocket to pass the boundary of space, what’s known as the Karman line, 100 km high, “and then land vertically upon the Earth” for the second time in a row. Bezos owns The Washington Post."
Back to the financial engineering drawing board
"From 2010 to 2014, International Business Machines Corp. spent almost $70 billion on share repurchases to boost earnings. Last year, the company moved away from the buyback strategy after CEO Ginni Rometty abandoned the share target in 2014. Chief Financial Officer Martin Schroeter said Tuesday that IBM spent $4.6 billion on share repurchases in 2015, compared with $13.7 billion the previous year. That’s the lowest amount in more than a decade."IBM Erases Five Years of Gains Buoyed by Share Buybacks: Chart - Bloomberg Business
Friday, January 22, 2016
Tangentially, see Court Documents Show Google Paid Apple $1 Billion For Safari Default Placement (Search Engine Land)
"Google Inc.’s Android operating system has generated revenue of $31 billion and $22 billion in profit, a lawyer for Oracle Corp. said in court while disclosing figures Google says shouldn’t have been made public.Google's Android Generates $31 Billion Revenue, Oracle Says - Bloomberg Business
An analysis of the search engine giant’s tightly held financial information was disclosed Jan. 14 by an Oracle attorney in the database maker’s lawsuit accusing Google of using its Java software without paying for it to develop Android. Google said in a court filing that the lawyer based her statement on information derived from its confidential internal financial documents."
Not only a matter of time
"So while the Apple Watch hasn't been an instant hit like the iPhone or iPod, it has to be taken seriously. Apple doesn't break out watch sales, but it does say that all of the last fiscal year's 20 percent growth in its "other products" line -- including Apple TV, iPods, Beats headphones and accessories -- was from watches.
Plus it's the market leader for smartwatches, with a projected 58.3 per cent share in 2015, according to researchers at IDC. The market is also expanding: IDC estimates 88.3 million smartwatches will be sold in 2019, up from 21.3 million in 2015."Don't Mock the Apple Watch - Bloomberg Gadfly
Ad quality control
"More than 1,000 of Google’s 60,000 employees monitor and remove ads, an important task because the company gets about 90% of its revenue from advertising. It’s also been hit financially for not adequately monitoring ads. In 2011, the company agreed to pay $500 million to settle allegations by the U.S. Department of Justice that ads for Canadian online pharmacies contributed to the illegal importation of prescription drugs. In the settlement, Google acknowledged it acted “improperly.”Google Disabled 49% More Ads in 2015 - Digits - WSJ
Google blocked more than 12.5 million ads in 2015 for drugs that were unapproved or that made misleading claims, up from 9.6 million a year earlier.
Ads making misleading weight-loss claims were a big source of user complaints last year, prompting Google to suspend more than 30,000 websites from its ad systems. It declined to give a comparable number for 2014."
tbd if the vulture capitalists believe companies such as Box and Hortonworks have further to fall
"Enterprise-technology giants like International Business Machines Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. have all seen their market value shrink by at least 9% in the past month—underperforming the S&P 500 index, which fell 7% over the same period.Selloff Puts Cloud-Computing Upstarts in Play - WSJ
Some younger firms have fared much worse. Box Inc., a seller of Internet-based data storage, has dropped by 26%. Workday Inc., which sells online access to accounting and human resources software, lost 13%. The market capitalization of Hortonworks, which makes data-analytics software, has plummeted by half."
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Donald Trump would probably disapprove, since the counter-speech technique could overwhelm his posts of hatred and intolerance
"Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 20 January, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg pointed to one source of inspiration for the digital war against Isis – “a ‘like’ attack”.
She explained a recent effort by German Facebook users to “like” the Facebook page of the neo-Nazi party and then post positive messages on the page. “What was a page filled with hatred and intolerance was then tolerance and messages of hope,” she said.
She then pivoted to Isis and added: “The best thing to speak against recruitment by Isis are the voices of people who were recruited by Isis, understand what the true experience is, have escaped and have come back to tell the truth ... Counter-speech to the speech that is perpetuating hate we think by far is the best answer.”"Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg: 'likes' can help stop Isis recruiters | Technology | The Guardian
The first of many contextual communication/collaboration communities from Facebook; also see Heads Up, ESPN: Facebook Built Its Own Game Hub for Live Sports Stats (Re/code)
"Today we’re launching the Facebook Sports Stadium, a dedicated place to experience sports in real-time with your friends and the world.Introducing the Facebook Sports Stadium | Facebook Newsroom
With 650 million sports fans, Facebook is the world’s largest stadium. People already turn to Facebook to celebrate, commiserate, and talk trash with their friends and other fans.
Now we’ve built a place devoted to sports so you can get the feeling you’re watching the game with your friends even when you aren’t together."
Google asserts Dataflow will address the problems described below; also see the Apache Dataflow proposal, which notes "Dataflow started as a set of Google projects focused on making data processing easier, faster, and less costly. The Dataflow model is a successor to MapReduce, FlumeJava, and Millwheel inside Google and is focused on providing a unified solution for batch and stream processing."
"It wasn't long ago that Apache Hadoop MapReduce was the obvious engine for all things big data, then Apache Spark came along, and more recently Apache Flink, a streaming-native engine. Unlike upgrading hardware, adopting these more modern engines has generally required rewriting pipelines to adopt engine-specific APIs, often with different implementations for streaming and batch scenarios. This can mean throwing away user code that had just been weathered enough to be considered (mostly) bug-free, and replacing it with immature new code. All of this just because the data pipelines needed to scale better, or have lower latency, or run more cheaply, or complete faster.Google Cloud Platform Blog: Dataflow and open source - proposal to join the Apache Incubator
Adjusting such aspects should not require throwing away well-tested business logic. You should be able to move your application or data pipeline to the appropriate engine, or to the appropriate environment (e.g., from on-prem to cloud) while keeping the business logic intact. But, to do this, two conditions need to be met. First, you need a portable SDK, which can produce programs that can execute on one of many pluggable execution environments. Second, that SDK has to expose a programming model whose semantics are focused on your workload and not on the capabilities of the underlying engine. For example, MapReduce as a programming model doesn’t meet the bill (even though MapReduce as an execution method might be appropriate in some cases) because it cannot productively express low-latency computations."
See the full article for four primary reasons wearables haven't gained traction; also see Stop Counting 10,000 Steps; Check Your Personal Activity Intelligence (WSJ) and Mossberg: Smartwatches Need to Get Smarter (Re/code)
"There’s my old Fitbit, a fitness tracker I used for a couple of weeks, forgot to charge and never wore again. It sits next to a dusty Jawbone UP, another tracker that once told me I had walked three miles while I sat on my couch eating popcorn and watching a movie. And then there’s the Apple Watch, the much-hyped device that was supposed to usher in a new era of mobile computing.Where Wearable Technology Ends Up (Hint: Not Your Wrist) - The New York Times
Instead, these gadgets are ending up in drawers and closets as expensive reminders of how wearable gadgets are not ready for prime time — at least for the foreseeable future."
A rough start to 2016 for both Twitter and Square; also see Twitter Shares Jump on Speculation About Takeover Interest (BloombergBusiness) and Deja New: Talk of Twitter as Takeover Target Is Back Again (Re/code)
"The travails underscore how the stock market’s up and downs are especially hitting companies that have question marks hanging over their heads. While a rising market lifts all boats, doubters tend to flee riskier stocks in a tumultuous market. And plenty of questions — mostly around growth — surround Twitter and Square, with scrutiny set to intensify in the next few weeks as Twitter is scheduled to report earnings on Feb. 10 and Square to issue its first earnings as a public company on March 9.Jack Dorsey Juggles Twitter and Square, Both Caught in Downdraft - The New York Times
“The market has suddenly found volatility” and that has made Square “a magnet of pessimism” and with Twitter, “people are piling onto it because it’s a disliked name that’s poorly understood,” said Max Wolff, the chief economist at Manhattan Venture Partners."
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Final sentence from this extensive Internet.org profile: "History suggests it’s not a good idea to bet against Mark Zuckerberg."
"For Zuckerberg, Internet.org is more than just a business initiative or a philanthropic endeavor: He considers connecting people to be his life’s work, the legacy for which he hopes to one day be remembered, and this effort is at its core. Zuckerberg is convinced the world needs Internet.org. The Internet won’t expand on its own, he says; in fact, the rate of growth is slowing. Most companies prioritize connecting the people who have a shot at joining the emerging middle class or who at least have the cash to foot a tiny data plan. Those businesses can’t afford to take a flier on the hardest people to reach—the very poor—in the hope that decades into the future they will transform into a viable market. Zuckerberg can. And as board chair, chief executive, and the majority vote on Facebook’s board, he can compel his board to support him. “There’s no way we can draw a plan about why we’re going to invest billions of dollars in getting mostly poor people online,” he tells me. “But at some level, we believe this is what we’re here to do, and we think it’s going to be good, and if we do it, some of that value will come back to us.”"Inside Facebook's Ambitious Plan to Connect the Whole World | WIRED
I'm getting a distinct sense of peak Trump this week in the mainstream media
"It’s hard to quantify exactly how much Trump gets wrong with that one statement, and how little power he will have, if elected, to do what he says. If he means what he says, he is ignorant about how many American workers, both at Apple and other companies, participate in the creation of “Apple’s computers and things,” including its Mac line of personal computers as well as the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. The company’s products are, if anything, an example of the engine of American technical supremacy chugging along at a job-creating pace that is the envy of the world."How Donald Trump Got Everything Wrong About Apple in One Sentence | Re/code
The Gang of Four => the Frightful Five
"Indeed, the Frightful Five are so well-protected against start-ups that in most scenarios, the rise of new companies only solidifies their lead.Tech’s ‘Frightful 5’ Will Dominate Digital Life for Foreseeable Future - The New York Times
Consider that Netflix hosts its movies on Amazon’s cloud, and Google’s venture capital arm has a huge investment in Uber. Or consider all the in-app payments that Apple and Google get from their app stores, and all the marketing dollars that Google and Facebook reap from start-ups looking to get you to download their stuff.
This gets to the core of the Frightful Five’s indomitability. They have each built several enormous technologies that are central to just about everything we do with computers. In tech jargon, they own many of the world’s most valuable “platforms” — the basic building blocks on which every other business, even would-be competitors, depend."
On a related note, Deezer Raises $109 Million in Music Race With Spotify, Apple
"Spotify Ltd. is stepping up the competition against Apple Music and major European rivals Deezer and Tidal with a pair of acquisitions aimed at making it easier to discover and share music with friends.Spotify Buys Music Social Network Apps Soundwave, Cord Project - Bloomberg Business
The Swedish music-streaming service has acquired Dublin-based Soundwave, an app downloaded more than 1.5 million times, praised by Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak and British actor Stephen Fry and invested in by Marc Cuban. It lets users explore music with private groups and see what music is trending nearby. The second purchase is Cord Project, a simple voice messaging service for phones, tablets and smartwatches. Financial details of the acquisitions were not disclosed."
A major expansion to a long-standing program ($1B in cloud services over the next three years); also see Why we need a public cloud for the public good (Satya Nadella in The Official Microsoft Blog)
"Microsoft has been giving away traditional software for years. Mr. Smith estimates the value of those software donations at about $750 million a year and said that they will continue even as Microsoft gives away cloud services.Microsoft to Donate $1 Billion in Cloud Services to Nonprofits and Researchers - The New York Times
Microsoft hopes to give away its cloud services to 70,000 nonprofits in the next three years. The company plans to expand by 50 percent an existing program that donates Azure storage and computing resources to university projects. The company will also invest in low-cost Internet access technologies in developing countries."
A lot less fun on the way down
"The unicorn wars are coming, as the downturn in the market will force these onetime highfliers to seek money at valuations below their earlier billion-dollar-plus levels, known as “down rounds.”Expect Some Unicorns to Lose Their Horns, and It Won’t Be Pretty - The New York Times
Whether you are a spectator or part of the blood bath, here is what you can expect in the coming clashes among employees, founders and investors."
IBM Reports Declines in Fourth-Quarter Profit and Revenue Despite Gains in New Fields - The New York Times
Transition timing tbd
"The corporate computing giant reported declines in fourth-quarter profit and revenue. Its results were depressed by a strong dollar. But even without the currency impact, IBM is struggling as its new growth areas like data analytics and cloud computing are not yet big enough to overcome the slippage in its traditional hardware, software and services businesses.IBM Reports Declines in Fourth-Quarter Profit and Revenue Despite Gains in New Fields - The New York Times
“IBM says this is all part of the transition process, and it may well be,” said A. M. Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. “But as far as evidence that the transition is really taking hold, we haven’t seen that yet.”"
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
From a review of the new LinkNYC service; also see LinkNYC's free gigabit Wi-Fi is here, and it is glorious (Engadget)
"New York’s network may be far speedier than most, but it’s a microcosm of what’s happening across the globe. Wi-Fi networks with widespread coverage and new standards are popping up to allow us to cut back on paying the carriers an arm and a leg for cellular data. It’s downright exciting—and downright scary if you don’t take some real security precautions."The Future of Public Wi-Fi: What to Do Before Using Free, Fast Hot Spots - WSJ
Check the full post for some creative cloud accounting examples
"The bottom line is that customers shouldn’t trust vendors when they fire off cloud revenue numbers as a way of trying to impress them. Instead, Gartner recommends they ask quite a few questions of potential vendors before making a decision to buy one or another’s cloud services.Gartner calls out cloud vendors for cooking the books | SiliconANGLE
These questions include asking which revenues are cloud-associated, which non-cloud services are included in their cloud revenues, and how much of their cloud business is actually being deployed versus cloud shelfware or services not in use. By asking such questions, customers will be better able to establish if vendor’s numbers are realistic or not."
Intellectual property mobility
"The automaker has acquired the technology and most of the assets of the San Francisco-based ride-hailing pioneer Sidecar Technologies Inc. GM is also bringing on board around 20 employees from the Sidecar team, including co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Jahan Khanna. Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Sunil Paul is not joining GM.General Motors Salvages Ride-Hailing Company Sidecar for Parts - Bloomberg Business
The person familiar with the deal added that as part of the transaction, GM will also get a license to a patent that was granted to Sidecar CEO Paul in 2002: “System and method for determining an efficient transportation route.”
Sidecar executives believed the patent covered the essential intellectual property behind ride-sharing, though Uber and Lyft never responded to Sidecar’s repeated attempts to enforce the patent, this person said."
Check the full article for a public cloud market dynamics snapshot
"Amit Singh runs the enterprise sales operations. When he joined from Oracle in 2010, recruited by former business chief Nikesh Arora, Googlers were worried he wouldn’t fit with the culture (i.e. wasn’t Google-y enough), said one former employee. But he has proven his operational chops since.Why Google Need to Build a Cloud Enteprise Business to Rival Search | Re/code
Singh has also recruited some notable deputies, including Shahla Aly, a Microsoft VP, who runs customer experience; Miles Ward, a systems architect specialist from AWS; and Brian Stevens, the one-time CTO of enterprise security stalwart Red Hat. Prabhakar Raghavan, a research veteran of IBM and Yahoo, leads up enterprise app engineering.
And Greene is likely on the prowl for more talent — possibly, we’ve heard, from her old company VMware."
Not a great day for Twitter so far
"But because Twitter is an important news source, as well as a sounding board, for many people, the shutdowns were a significant disruption in the global conversation. When other technology and media companies have faced similar problems in the past, people have often turned to the platform to vent their frustration — an outlet unavailable because Twitter itself was the cause of the problem.Twitter Struck by Widespread Global Shutdowns - The New York Times
“Thanks for noticing,” read a brief note that appeared on users’ Twitter pages when the website had problems loading. “We’re going to fix it up and have things back to normal soon.”"
Also see Microsoft Acquires MinecraftEdu, Tailored for Schools (NYT)
"Teachers in thousands of schools in dozens of countries use the video game Minecraft to teach subjects from math to English to computer programming through MinecraftEdu. They use a modified version of the game first made in 2011 by an independent group of teachers and computer programmers. Microsoft is validating their work by turning MinecraftEdu into the centerpiece of its own business plans for Minecraft as an educational tool. But MinecraftEdu's creators aren't coming along for the ride.Microsoft Turns a Minecraft Mod Into an Education Business - Bloomberg Business
Now Microsoft is buying the MinecraftEdu franchise."
Tangentially, see Google’s AMP Poised To Take The Lead From Facebook’s And Apple’s Walled Gardens (Monday Note)
"In recent years, Apple’s advertising business seemed at odds with the company’s position on privacy. Chief Executive Tim Cook has criticized Apple’s Silicon Valley rivals, saying they are collecting lots of personal data on customers so they can make more money from advertising.Apple, a Critic of Rivals’ Ad Efforts, Is Pulling Back From Its Own Ad Business - Digits - WSJ
Apple’s criticism was undermined, in part, by the fact that its own iAd business allows advertisers to target users based on user information available to the company.
At the same time, Apple was unwilling to allow advertisers to tap a wider trove of data such as sharing the location of its users as they moved with the company’s mobile devices. This left the business, already a tiny contributor to Apple’s overall earnings, in limbo."
Monday, January 18, 2016
From a provocative platform perspective
"That indicates iOS generated over 40 times the revenues for Apple that Android contributed for Google, even before considering iTunes, App Store, Apple Pay and devices like Apple Watch and Apple TV.After abandoning iAd revenue, Apple Inc can reintroduce an ad-free internet
Apple's exit from the mobile ad sales business may look like a win for Google, but it really signifies that Apple is ready to stop playing in ads where Google has a home field advantage, and instead begin to leverage its entrenched position in hardware in order to starve Google's core business into irrelevance by targeting the valuable foundation of Internet ads."
Perhaps they'll have an opportunity to rebrand the AOL properties as "Yahoo..."
"Mark Ritson, a leading brand expert and marketing consultant, tells Business Insider that he also thinks the messy corporate brand definitely needs a clean up. AOL is tricky, he says, because it has very strong brand awareness, but that its image "has an unpalatable mix of being seen to be out of date and a business failure."AOL considering brand change - Business Insider
"Now that it is part of Verizon, there should be a major restructuring of the AOL divisions and a very concerted brand cull," he says via email. "But this is a move that should be made by Verizon executives, not vested AOL people. It's time to take out the knife and cut back brands to release growth and profit."
Whether the legacy name remains or not, the company certainly plans to put time and resources into its identity this year. "
So close -- see the full article for video
"Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Sunday launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets into low-Earth orbit to deploy a satellite for some of its government partners, including NASA. The rocket launch was nothing new — SpaceX has launched plenty over the past few years and the satellite was successfully deployed. The trick on Sunday? Returning the rocket, in one piece, onto a floating barge out in the Pacific ocean. Sounds pretty spectacular! Unfortunately, it didn’t work (although not for lack of accuracy). The rocket came down on target but had issues with one of its landing legs, according to a tweet from Musk."SpaceX Crashes Falcon 9 Rocket Onto Ocean Barge | Re/code
See this Re/code article for analysis
"Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today's announcement means we're introducing third-party ads. The answer is no. Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam."Making WhatsApp free and more useful - WhatsApp Blog
Check the full article for details on Google's lead; also see For Now, Self-Driving Cars Still Need Humans (NYT)
"Carmakers from Tesla to Volkswagen are trying to make drivers obsolete, handing control of the wheel to a computer that can make intelligent decisions about when to turn and how to brake. Google gets a tremendous amount of attention for the work it’s putting into self-driving cars. But how do its competitors stack up?"These charts show who’s lapping who in the race to perfect the driverless car - The Washington Post
Friday, January 15, 2016
Also see Jimmy Wales: I don't regret not monetising Wikipedia (The Telegraph) and At 15, Wikipedia Is Finally Finding Its Way to the Truth (Wired)
"Wikipedia turns 15 on Friday. A key element in its creators’ vision of a user-generated online encyclopedia was to make it a repository of information serving audiences in multiple languages. The first non-English versions launched shortly after the Wikipedia’s founding in 2001, with offerings in six languages – German, Catalan, Swedish, French, Spanish and Russian. Today, the site is available in 280 languages. A new Pew Research Center analysis of the most visited pages in each of Wikipedia’s top 10 languages provides a window on how people in different societies and cultures use the international reference tool."Wikipedia at 15: Millions of readers in scores of languages | Pew Research Center
Optimizing global logistics for e-tail
"The move speaks to the company’s broader ambitions to take the reins of shipping and delivery from traditional players. It is rolling out its own branded semi-trucks, considering leasing cargo planes, and experimenting with drones to get packages to customers quickly and inexpensively.By Land, Air and Now Sea: Amazon Looks to Arrange Ocean Freight - Digits - WSJ
Today, a hodge-podge of companies are duking it out for the highly fragmented $160 billion business of arranging cargo shipments, meaning Amazon could potentially pick up market share quickly. As a result, a host of startups are also trying to modernize freight forwarding, and have picked up Silicon Valley venture-capital backing. Those startups include Flexport, which in August landed a $20 million funding round."
Data sharing dimensions tbd...
"The Obama administration is proposing to spend nearly $4 billion in a decade to accelerate the acceptance of driverless cars on U.S. roads and curb traffic fatalities and travel delays.U.S. Proposes Spending $4 Billion to Encourage Driverless Cars - WSJ
The proposal, which would require congressional approval, aims to have federal regulators work with auto makers and others to craft policies and rules for vehicles that can move without a driver at the wheel. It also would set up pilot programs for testing “connected vehicles” that talk to one another to avoid crashes under the $3.9 billion budget proposal."
Intel in transition
"Intel still gets 59 percent of its revenue from chip sales to PC makers like HP Inc. and Dell, just as Microsoft and other makers of PC software count on the demand for new PCs to sell their products. Now PCs are a tough business: On Tuesday, the market research firm IDC said 276 million PCs were shipped worldwide in 2015, a drop of 10.4 percent from 2014.Intel’s Earnings Fall, but Beat Expectations - The New York Times
“PCs don’t matter as much as they used to,” said Jay Chou, an analyst with IDC. “They’re only part of the story that includes mobile devices and cloud computing.”
On Thursday, Intel said data center chip sales, not just to clouds but to older kinds of computing, rose 4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015. Along with Intel’s much smaller businesses in memory and sensor chips for devices, data center chips accounted for than 60 percent of the company’s operating profit margin."
A cryptocurrency collaboration crisis?
"The current dispute, though, is a reminder that the Bitcoin software — like all computer code — is an evolving product of the human mind, and its deployment is vulnerable to human frailties and divergent ideals.A Bitcoin Believer’s Crisis of Faith - The New York Times
There may yet be a middle ground on the question that began the fight, but for the moment the sides are deadlocked, and that has left the Bitcoin software — and the virtual currency itself — in a state of limbo. Mr. Hearn is convinced that the stalemate will soon make it hard to complete even simple transactions and will eventually drive away users and lead to a price collapse. Mr. Hearn’s concerns about this impasse have been echoed, often in less strident tones, by a growing number of other developers, as well as by start-ups that buy, sell and hold Bitcoins."
A startup valuation reality check
"Foursquare, which is based in New York, is likely to be joined by other start-ups this year in doing what is known in investing circles as “down rounds,” in which companies that once raised money at soaring valuations are forced to accept funding at lower values. While tech start-ups boomed in recent years — with many easily attracting investors and big sums — that environment has now turned on fears that many of these young companies got ahead of themselves.Foursquare Raises $45 Million, Cutting Its Valuation Nearly in Half - The New York Times
Investors have grown more cautious; the amount of money funding private companies has fallen 30 percent, to $27.3 billion, in the last quarter of 2015 from the previous quarter, according to a report from the research firm CB Insights. Mutual fund investors have also recently marked down valuations of some of the most prominent private companies, such as Snapchat, the messaging start-up, and Dropbox, the file storage service."
Thursday, January 14, 2016
Embrace and extend, c2016?
"Anyone on the Slack team will be able to start a Skype call from a computer by typing "/skype" into the Slack chat regardless of whether team members are using Slack on the Web, Windows, Mac, iOS or Android, according to a Microsoft blog post announcing the integration.Microsoft releases preview of Skype integration for Slack | ZDNet
To join the Skype call, users need Skype on the desktop, in a Web browser or in the form of the various Skype mobile apps. A Skype account isn't required; users can participate as guests."
Check the full article for an assessment of Google's cloud strategy
"Google has not failed in the cloud. Gartner Vice President and distinguished analyst Lydia Leong, who sizes up the market each year in her Magic Quadrant report, says Google has had “qualified success” in IaaS. It’s been much more successful than a whole host of others (VMware, Verizon, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, to name a few). But, Google is “not coming anywhere close to Azure. And Azure is nowhere close to touching Amazon,” Leong says. In her estimation, Google is orders of magnitude away from AWS. But, she says it’s pointed in the right direction.Why Google hasn't taken off in the cloud yet | Network World
Google lists businesses like Sony Music and Coca-Cola as customers.
Synergy Research Group – which tracks cloud provider market share and revenue – estimates that in the third quarter of 2015, AWS had 39% market share in the IaaS industry, with Microsoft at 11% and Google at 6%."
Excerpt from an insightful and entertaining cloud market dynamics perspective by Charles Fitzgerald
"I contend there were two critical inflection points for cloud this past year:A Dispatch from Cloud City – State of the Union 2016 – Platformonomics
Customers tipped, specifically the enterprises who spend vast sums on IT. Most CIOs have shifted from resistance or tire kicking to active embrace, and are doing so increasingly for business reasons as opposed to technical. Sticking your head in the sand is no longer a viable option. The objections have been knocked down one after another. Security turned out to be powerful a reason to go to the cloud, not shun it. The enterprise tipping point is critical because it dramatically expands the size of the cloud opportunity. We can now realistically talk about a trillion dollars of existing IT spend in play, aka the “cloud jackpot”.
Amazon’s transparency, both financial and cultural. The breaking out of AWS financials in April forever banished the platitudes “your margin is my opportunity” and “the race to the bottom”. AWS proved to be a very large, very profitable and very rapidly growing business. Even bulls were surprised to learn not only that the business is profitable, but much more profitable than anyone imagined. The initial operating margins for AWS were almost identical to those of financial engineering savant IBM. Amazon also had some unsolicited transparency inflicted upon it by the New York Times, who took a deep look at the company’s culture."
The Internet of occasionally buggy things
"After last week’s freeze, I’m thinking of ditching my Nest. I haven’t decided on a replacement yet, but I may take a cue from Kent Goldman, a San Francisco resident I follow on Twitter who had a similar issue with his Nest in November.Nest Thermostat Glitch Leaves Users in the Cold - The New York Times
After being put on hold with Nest’s technical support for over an hour, Mr. Goldman went to his nearest Ace Hardware store (while still on hold) and picked up an old-fashioned mechanical thermostat for about $25.
Sure, it doesn’t let you change the temperature through your smartphone. And it won’t email you monthly usage reports. But it isn’t vulnerable to bad software, and it doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection."
The world's largest railway exhibit is on Google Maps — and trust us, you'll want to see this (Mashable)
A different kind of virtual reality
"More than a million people visit the quirky, high-tech Minatur Wunderland — the world's largest, tiniest-scale model railway exhibit — in Hamburg, Germany each year, but now you can do it from the comfort of your own computer.The world's largest railway exhibit is on Google Maps — and trust us, you'll want to see this
Google Maps has added Street View to the intricate exhibit, which features 8 miles of railway tracks and follow 900 trains each day. While model trains may not typically be your thing, stay with us. You're about to geek out."
An encouraging trend
"The sun and the wind continue to defy gravity.Solar and Wind Just Did the Unthinkable - Bloomberg Business
Renewables just finished another record-breaking year, with more money invested ($329 billion) and more capacity added (121 gigawatts) than ever before, according to new data released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
This wasn't supposed to happen. Oil, coal and natural gas bottomed out over the last 18 months, with bargain prices not seen in a decade. That's just one of a handful of reasons 2015 should have been a rough year for clean energy. But the opposite was true."
Still tbd how Google will combine Google Maps and Waze
"Armed with this data and other information like the time of day, Google Maps suggests destinations unprompted. So if you searched for a local hardware store 30 minutes ago and then launched Maps to begin driving, Google would show you the way to that retail establishment and estimate how long it will take to get there.Google Maps Guesses Where You’re Headed Now - Digits - WSJ
It is part of a broader push by the company to answer questions proactively, rather than waiting for people to type a search query into a white box online. This is happening as online activity switches to smartphones, which are harder to type on than personal computers but provide more data for Google to make useful predictions. So expect more of these compelling-yet-creepy features from the leader in real-time online data analysis."
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
See Making R the Enterprise Standard for Cross-Platform Analytics, Both On-Premises and in the Cloud (Microsoft Machine Learning Blog) for details including "Microsoft R Open is 100% compatible with all R scripts and packages, and just like R is open source and free to download, use and share."
"On January 12, Microsoft announced officially the availability and rebranding of the Revolution R Enterprise line as "Microsoft R Server" Company officials also said for the record that Revolution R Open is now called "Microsoft R Open" and available as a free download.Microsoft delivers free version of its R analytics Server for developers | ZDNet
R is a programming language that can be used in big-data statistics, predictive modeling and machine learning . Microsoft last April completed its acquisition of Revolution Analytics, the maker of a distribution of the R programming language for statistical computing and predictive analytics, for an undisclosed amount."
A Greene field opportunity: "Greene is responsible for turning two of Google’s biggest untapped assets — its cloud sales division, which is well behind Amazon, and its enterprise applications sales, which have yet to take off despite several attempts — into a business that can rival search."
"As Facebook and Microsoft have plowed ahead with virtual reality, Google has looked like it’s behind. But, in 2016, it may be serious about catching up.Google Opens Virtual Reality Division, Apps Move to Enterprise Unit | Re/code
The search giant is forming its own dedicated division for virtual reality computing, with CEO Sundar Pichai moving over a key deputy to run it, according to multiple sources. Simultaneously, the move signals Google’s emerging intent to build a viable enterprise business. Because with the executive shift, Google’s massive consumer Web applications now fall under incoming SVP Diane Greene."
Apple's next earnings report (on 1/26) is going to be interesting
"In fact, despite a multimillion-dollar industry marketing campaign, sales declined so much — more than 10 percent in IDC’s reckoning — that 2015 now qualifies as the worst year since records have been kept. And that’s saying something, because the previous year that held that distinction was 2013.Worldwide PC Sales Declined Again in 2015 | Re/code
The only good news for companies like Lenovo, HP and Dell, which were the world’s three top vendors, is that expectations were already low. All three saw their overall sales fall year-on-year, Lenovo by nearly 4 percent, Dell and HP by 6 percent each. Sales of Apple Macs grew by more than 6 percent, making it No. 4 vendor in the world, ahead of Acer, whose sales fell by more than 18 percent."
What happened when a Chinese TV station replaced its meteorologist with a chatbot - The Washington Post
Later in the article: "The chatbot could get an expanded role on DragonTV as a commentator on news features, or on an entertainment talk show. That will depend on how many more abilities the Microsoft researchers can build into Xiaoice."
"She does three 90-second forecasts during the two-hour program, focused on local, domestic and international conditions. The data is taken from official sources, and she doesn’t crunch weather data to make her own predictions. Xiaoice will even remind viewers to bundle up when it’s cold, and cautions against exercise when the air quality is bad.What happened when a Chinese TV station replaced its meteorologist with a chatbot - The Washington Post
Xiaoice originated as a creation of Microsoft’s artificial intelligence team in China, which wanted to make an online service that would answer users’ questions and add an emotional, human touch. Xiaoice’s television appearances began in December, in a deal with Microsoft that Dragon TV called a one-year internship for Xiaoice."
An opportunity for riders to give Uber even more control of their "trip experiences"
"Uber, the huge ride-hailing service, delivers millions of rides to passengers. Now the company wants to give people something to do while they’re in the car.Uber Invites Developers to Build Apps for Customized Passenger Distractions - The New York Times
On Tuesday, Uber introduced a way for smartphone app developers to create “trip experiences” for riders. The idea, the company says, is to give riders tailored information and entertainment during their time in an Uber vehicle.
Uber gave a few examples of how it might look. Upon entering the vehicle, riders could receive a quick news briefing or perhaps be served with a music playlist built to last the length of their ride."
"Ms. Atkinson, who joined the administration in 2011, is the latest in a string of Obama administration officials to join Silicon Valley companies. David Plouffe, also a former adviser, joined Uber in August 2014, and Jay Carney, a former press secretary, was hired by Amazon early last year.Google Picks Former Obama Adviser to Lead Global Public Policy - The New York Times
As Silicon Valley companies have grown in influence, they’ve raised greater regulatory concerns over competition and privacy. The senior government officials have been hired to help navigate the regulatory landscape and coordinate campaigns aimed at softening the images of their companies."
"For much of its young life, the startup Genius didn’t seem to be headed in a direction leading to the White House. The website launched with a focus on annotated music lyrics, and its founders were pilloried for immature behavior, racial insensitivity, and a general aura of non-seriousness. When the Obama administration laid out its plans for this year’s State of the Union, however, it included an online presentation of past speech texts that were annotated, using Genius’s technology."The White House's Genius Plan to Treat the State of the Union Like Rap Lyrics - Bloomberg Business
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Also see IE 8, 9, and 10 Expire Today and We’re Left with…Chrome (SuperSite for Windows)
"Internet Explorer soon will be a thing of the past. Starting today, Microsoft will stop supporting Internet Explorer versions 7, 8, 9 and 10 on most operating systems, its biggest step yet toward phasing out one of the most contentious pieces of software ever written.The Sorry Legacy of Internet Explorer | WIRED
Microsoft has been distancing itself from the Internet Explorer brand since March, when it launched the Microsoft Edge browser, but it isn’t quite dead. Edge runs only on Windows 10, so Redmond will continue backing a few versions of Internet Explorer on older operating systems it still supports. But it’s still a big departure. Historically, Microsoft has kept several versions of Internet Explorer current each supported version of Windows. Starting today, it will support only the latest version of IE that an operating system cdan [sic] run. It will not create new security patches for the older versions, leaving anyone who doesn’t upgrade vulnerable to new hacks or attacks."
Official YouTube Blog: YouTube creators interview President Obama following his final State of the Union
Check the full post for related links
"Tomorrow evening [tonight], President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union address to Congress, which will broadcast live on YouTube. Then, as he has every year after the speech, he’ll turn to YouTube and Google to take questions from Americans about the issues that matter to them.Official YouTube Blog: YouTube creators interview President Obama following his final State of the Union
This Friday, January 15, Destin Sandlin, Ingrid Nilsen, and Adande Thorne—three popular YouTube creators—will travel to Washington, D.C. to host a live YouTube Interview with President Obama. They’ll join the President in the East Room of the White House, asking a selection of questions that are top of mind for them and their fans. You can watch the whole thing on the White House YouTube channel—and if you have a question for the President, suggest it by using the hashtag #YouTubeAsksObama on social media."
A sign of the mobile device times
"Guests at the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disney Resort, scheduled to open this year, will be able to use their mobile devices to enter the park, purchase merchandise and likely access rides and attractions. Visitors in Orlando already do those things with the wristbands, which rolled out in Florida with great fanfare in 2013.Why Disney Doesn't Need Wearables At Its Park in Shanghai | Digital - AdAge
Disney spent $1 billion and several years developing MagicBands and making other technology upgrades to its Orlando resorts. But technology moves fast. Today, Disney may be able to achieve more with guests just using their smartphone."