"Much of the product line from security firm Symantec contains a raft of vulnerabilities that expose millions of consumers, small businesses, and large organizations to self-replicating attacks that take complete control of their computers, a researcher warned Tuesday.High-severity bugs in 25 Symantec/Norton products imperil millions | Ars Technica
"These vulnerabilities are as bad as it gets," Tavis Ormandy, a researcher with Google's Project Zero, wrote in a blog post. "They don’t require any user interaction, they affect the default configuration, and the software runs at the highest privilege levels possible. In certain cases on Windows, vulnerable code is even loaded into the kernel, resulting in remote kernel memory corruption.""
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Article summary: "If you use a Symantec or Norton product, now would be a good time to update."
"The human brain is a sophisticated learning machine, forming rules by memorizing everyday events (“sparrows can fly” and “pigeons can fly”) and generalizing those learnings to apply to things we haven't seen before (“animals with wings can fly”). Perhaps more powerfully, memorization also allows us to further refine our generalized rules with exceptions (“penguins can't fly”). As we were exploring how to advance machine intelligence, we asked ourselves the question—can we teach computers to learn like humans do, by combining the power of memorization and generalization?Research Blog: Wide & Deep Learning: Better Together with TensorFlow
It's not an easy question to answer, but by jointly training a wide linear model (for memorization) alongside a deep neural network (for generalization), one can combine the strengths of both to bring us one step closer. At Google, we call it Wide & Deep Learning. It's useful for generic large-scale regression and classification problems with sparse inputs (categorical features with a large number of possible feature values), such as recommender systems, search, and ranking problems."
Putting user interests first; also see Facebook, a News Giant That Would Rather Show Us Baby Pictures (NYT)
"Today, Facebook announced that it’s tweaking its algorithm so that users see less stuff shared by publishers and brands and more stuff from friends and family.Facebook’s new algorithm change is what makes publishers so afraid of Facebook - Recode
This isn’t a nightmare scenario for publishers, but it’s pretty grim; websites and news organizations are leaning more and more on Facebook for growing their audiences, and Facebook just weakened a key traffic driver for them."
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
The OneNote team is probably pleased by the new Evernote pricing model
"Microsoft's OneNote note-taking app is free to download, use and sync between an unlimited number of Windows, iOS, Android, Amazon, Chromebook and Mac devices - so you could just switch to OneNote from Evernote and save a big chunk of cash. But if you're considering paying for the Evernote Premium subscription, bear in mind that for the same price, you'd not only get OneNote on all of your devices, but you'd also get the full Office suite on 1 PC or Mac, 1 tablet and 1 phone, along with 1TB of online OneDrive storage, if you opted for an Office 365 Personal subscription instead.Evernote increases prices, limits free plan; Premium plan now costs the same as Office 365
Microsoft also offers a free tool to help users migrate their Evernote notes to OneNote."
Lead paragraphs from an extensive AI reality check by Satya Nadella
"Advanced machine learning, also known as artificial intelligence or just A.I., holds far greater promise than unsettling headlines about computers beating humans at games like Jeopardy!, chess, checkers, and Go. Ultimately, humans and machines will work together—not against one another. Computers may win at games, but imagine what’s possible when human and machine work together to solve society’s greatest challenges like beating disease, ignorance, and poverty.Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: Humans and A.I. can work together to solve society’s challenges.
Doing so, however, requires a bold and ambitious approach that goes beyond anything that can be achieved through incremental improvements to current technology. Now is the time for greater coordination and collaboration on A.I."
Also see Uh Oh: Google Expands Its Ad Tracking. But, Yay: It’s Opt-In (Wired) and Review your entire Google life on this handy new page (Mashable)
"The company is rolling out a new service that pools data from across the entire web and mobile devices, giving it a potential boost to its core ads business. The big caveat: It’s giving users total control — and with that, they’ll have carte blanche to block particular ads.Google is adding new ways to track you for ads, but it’s letting you call the shots - Recode
It’s a way for Google to get ahead of the growth in ad-blocking. By building the feature opt-in, it’s also a way for Google to combat criticism of its privacy practices."
Also see Clinton’s Tech Policy Targets Young Entrepreneurs (NYT) and Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology & Innovation (Hillary for America)
"The agenda released Tuesday reads like a Silicon Valley wish list. It calls for investing in computer science and engineering education, expansion of technologies like 5G mobile data and hooking up more public places such as airports and train stations with cheap, abundant WiFi. It would continue efforts to curb abusive patent lawsuits, which the tech industry says are stifling its ability to innovate. And it commits to defending the government's net neutrality rules, which were recently upheld by a federal appeals court and aim to ban Internet providers from unfairly manipulating Internet content.Hillary Clinton’s tech agenda is really a huge economic plan in disguise - The Washington Post
The proposal from the presumptive Democratic nominee also promises to give recent college grads a three-year reprieve from their student loan payments, as long as they spend that time creating new startups and small businesses. And it includes an extra incentive that allows young entrepreneurs to wipe out up to $17,500 in student debt if they launch their businesses in "distressed communities.""
"Those are Kiva robots, once the marvel of warehouses everywhere. Amazon whipped out its wallet and threw down $775 million to purchase these robot legions in 2012. The acquisition effectively gave Jeff Bezos, its 52-year-old chief executive, command of an entire industry. He decided to use the robots for Amazon and Amazon alone, ending the sale of Kiva's products to warehouse operators and retailers that had come to rely on them. As contracts expired, they had to find other options to keep up with an ever-increasing consumer need for speed. The only problem was that there were no other options. Kiva was pretty much it.How Amazon Triggered a Robot Arms Race - Bloomberg
It's taken four years, but a handful of startups are finally ready to replace Kiva and equip the world's warehouses with new robotics. Amazon's Kiva bots proved this kind of automation is more efficient than an all-human workforce. The new robots being rolled out look different, partly because the industry is still experimenting and partly because of patent issues. Some focus on picking items off shelves, others zoom around with touch screens. All are aimed at saving retailers money as they race to get their wares to your doorstep as quickly as possible."
Final paragraphs from an extensive Tesla + SolarCity reality check
"While the timing does complicate Tesla’s unprecedented ramp-up of its Model 3 electric car production, the competition for electric and autonomous cars is only going to get more fierce. Companies including Apple, Volkswagen AG, General Motors Co., and Daimler AG have all committed to electric vehicle programs to challenge Tesla. Musk’s ambition creep is all his company has ever known, and is probably all it will ever know if it’s going to succeed against the biggest technology and automobile companies in the world.‘Tesla Solar’ Wants to Be the Apple Store for Electricity - Bloomberg
Is SolarCity a major distraction for Tesla? Probably. Does it add existential risk to both of these long, cash-torching bets? Most likely. Are the conflicts of interest messy? Definitely. But could the deal also result in the world’s first clean-energy juggernaut, a company that does for solar power, batteries, and electric cars what Apple did for computers, phones, and software apps? It’s worth considering."
Check the full article for some ways to deal with robocalls
"We are in the midst of a robot apocalypse. Instead of wiping us out with liquid metal lasers guns, they’re crushing us with robocalls, those unwanted, pre-recorded intrusions into our private lives. You’re not safe anywhere, not even on your once-sacred smartphone. I’m not talking about legal calls from the pharmacy about a prescription, or the school announcing a snow day. I’m talking about illegal ones, often scams, that promise free cruises, debt relief, easy money and many more little slices of the American dream."How to Stop Robocalls … or at Least Fight Back - WSJ
A pinned-product purchase pivot
"Among the features are buyable “pins,” or buttons, in browsers that users can click to purchase items on the site, as well as a digital shopping bag that follows users from their desktops to their smartphones or tablets.Pinterest Announces New Shopping-Focused Features - The New York Times
Perhaps most interesting is Pinterest’s object-detection software, a type of product search and discovery that companies like Amazon have tried. The software analyzes a photo of an object, such as a stuffed animal, recognizes it and highlights the item — or something like it — in a pop-up window. Users can then buy the item through Pinterest."
Excerpt from a mixed review
"Even where Mr. García completely mangles the facts – as he does for instance in describing the mechanics of the Facebook initial public offering – he manages to draw multiple fresh insights that somehow feel directionally correct. And in contrast to the self-serving verdicts rendered on his allies and enemies, his broader conclusions seem well balanced. The world he inhabited, Mr. García reflects, “is no worse than traditional industry and politics, but certainly no better either.”Review: ‘Chaos Monkeys’ Is a Guide to the Spirit of Silicon Valley - The New York Times
Which brings us to the second reason “Chaos Monkeys” is a must-read. It matters. Mr. García is providing tools to honestly deconstruct a corner of the world that has amassed breathtaking cultural, economic and political influence, and not always for the good. Fully 60 percent of Harvard Business School graduates now go to work at companies with fewer than 500 employees. A fuller conversation is required before we rejoice that the invidious hegemony of Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Company and hedge funds as the resting place for our best and brightest graduates has been replaced with early-stage tech companies."
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
A handy new Kindle feature; check the source page for details and examples
"Page Flip is a reimagined Kindle navigation experience that makes it easy to explore books while always saving your place. Page Flip is being delivered to Kindle E-readers, Fire tablets, and the Kindle app for iOS and Android as a free, over-the-air update."Amazon.com: Page Flip
Excerpt from a timely Paul Thurrott platform dynamics reality check
"From the safety of 2016, I can easily see that Windows 8 and Surface were a one-two punch that forever changed the dynamic of a PC industry that was already reeling from the iPhone. PC makers reacted to Surface as the direct threat that it was. And they responded not with new devices inspired by Surface, but by releasing new Chromebooks based on Google’s Chrome OS.Google Building Its Own Phone? Beware the Surface Curse - Thurrott.com
The PC market still hasn’t recovered from this collective blunder, and the collapse continues today in 2016 with even the rosiest projections calling for a leveling off, and not a rebound, of PC sales. The PC market will never again be as big as it was before the release of Windows 8 and Surface."
Yes he can
"But there’s something more important than political blowback. Pardoning Snowden is the right thing to do, and if you care about a free and secure internet, you should support it. Snowden risked his life to perform one of the most pivotal public disclosures of our time, shedding light on surveillance systems that have grown far beyond the reach of democratic accountability. The documents he published — the source of his crime — have brought about profound changes in the way we build technology and communicate online. His continued exile is shameful, and ending it is a unique chance to reclaim the legacy of a president who has often failed to live up to his own promises of transparency.President Obama should pardon Edward Snowden before leaving office | The Verge
Clemency is particularly important because it will be impossible to defend Snowden’s leaks as a public service in court. He is facing charges under the Espionage Act, which makes no distinction between delivering classified files to journalists and delivering the same files to a foreign power. For the first 80 years of its life, it was used almost entirely to prosecute spies. (Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers was a rare exception.) The argument Wizner is making now — that Snowden’s disclosures were in the public interest, and strengthened the nation rather than weakening it — couldn’t be made in the context of an Espionage Act trial. As long as classified documents were disclosed, which they indisputably were, then all other questions are moot."
Nothing to worry about, say the co-founders of Numenta, a company "leading the new era of machine intelligence;" also see No chance of Skynet: Forrester pours cold water on AI fears (SiliconAngle)
"Artificial intelligence will take over the world! Or so we’re told by the movies. We’re all doomed to become "house cats" if the machines so desire! Or so prominent experts like Elon Musk have warned.This is why your fears about artificial intelligence are wrong - Recode
Humbug, say Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky. On the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, the co-founders of Numenta (who previously co-founded Palm and Handspring) predicted AI will indeed drive technological advances for the rest of the century ... but they threw water on the idea that intelligent machines would behave as they do in popular fiction.
"There’s very smart people, whether it’s Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates or Stephen Hawking, who have said, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really dangerous,’" Hawkins said. "You imagine these things becoming crazy and alive and taking over the world. It is so far from that, it is crazy. The current technology is not even on a road to true intelligence. It’s just not going to happen.""
Check the full article for some stark opiate-of-the-masses stats
"TV! It’s cooked! Toast! Doneso. Ready for the fork.You are still watching a staggering amount of TV every day - Recode
Except not yet, because Americans are still watching a ton of TV, every day. For some of them, it’s the equivalent of a full-time job.
The average American watches an astonishing 4.3 hours of TV a day, according to a new report from Nielsen. Add in DVR time, and that number gets up to 5 hours a day."
An already vertically integrated board
"Kendall, who is the CEO of investment management firm Kenmont Solutions Capital, is the only person on the SolarCity board without a direct connection to Tesla.SolarCity appoints a two-person committee to decide whether to sell to Tesla - Recode
Pfund, on the other hand, is the founder and managing partner of DBL Investors, which invested in Tesla and served on the car company’s board before the company went public.
All but one of the other SolarCity board members — company chairman Musk; CEO and Musk’s cousin Lyndon Rive; CTO and other Musk cousin Peter Rive; CEO of Valor equity partners and Tesla board member Antonio Gracias; and Tesla co-founder and CTO J.B. Straubel — have recused themselves from voting on whether to accept Tesla’s $2.8 billion offer. John Fischer, who is a partner in Tesla and Solar City investor Draper Fisher Ventures, has not officially recused himself."
Check the full article for an alliance map; also see Lyft Is Said to Hire Qatalyst as Uber’s Rival Explores Deals (Bloomberg)
"The line between the technology and automotive industries is blurring. The rise of rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft means that transportation is being tied ever more closely to your cell phone, while autonomous driving technology is turning your car into a computer. But these developments are expensive: Carmakers’ R&D budgets jumped 61 percent, to $137 billion from 2010 to 2014.The Merging Worlds of Technology and Cars
Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne thinks it makes no sense for carmakers to spend billions of dollars developing competing, yet largely identical systems. To share some of the risk—and the cost—the incumbent automotive giants and their would-be disruptors are teaming up in an ever-growing, ever more complex series of alliances."
Increasingly cloudy classrooms; also see Google is making its educational tools more powerful (The Verge) and ISTE and Microsoft collaborate to provide new school planning and professional learning resources (Microsoft in Education blog)
"Called Amazon Inspire, the education site has features that may seem familiar to frequent Amazon shoppers. Search bar at the top of the page? Check. User reviews? Check. Star ratings for each product? Check.Amazon Unveils Online Education Service for Teachers - The New York Times
By starting out with a free resources service for teachers, Amazon is establishing a foothold that could expand into a one-stop shopping marketplace — not just for paid learning materials, but for schools’ wider academic and institutional software needs, said Tory Patterson, co-founder of Owl Ventures, a venture capital fund that invests in ed tech start-ups."
Monday, June 27, 2016
From an extensive Snowden + Snowbot profile
"Snowden’s body might be confined to Moscow, but the former NSA computer specialist has hacked a work-around: a robot. If he wants to make his physical presence felt in the United States, he can connect to a wheeled contraption called a BeamPro, a flat-screen monitor that stands atop a pair of legs, five-foot-two in all, with a camera that acts as a swiveling Cyclops eye. Inevitably, people call it the “Snowbot.” The avatar resides at the Manhattan offices of the ACLU, where it takes meetings and occasionally travels to speaking engagements. (You can Google pictures of the Snowbot posing with Sergey Brin at TED.) Undeniably, it’s a gimmick: a tool in the campaign to advance Snowden’s cause — and his case for clemency — by building his cultural and intellectual celebrity. But the technology is of real symbolic and practical use to Snowden, who hopes to prove that the internet can overcome the power of governments, the strictures of exile, and isolation. It all amounts to an unprecedented act of defiance, a genuine enemy of the state carousing in plain view."Edward Snowden’s Life As a Robot -- NYMag
From an AI special report in The Economist
"How has artificial intelligence, associated with hubris and disappointment since its earliest days, suddenly become the hottest field in technology? The term was coined in a research proposal written in 1956 which suggested that significant progress could be made in getting machines to “solve the kinds of problems now reserved for humans…if a carefully selected group of scientists work on it together for a summer”. That proved to be wildly overoptimistic, to say the least, and despite occasional bursts of progress, AI became known for promising much more than it could deliver. Researchers mostly ended up avoiding the term, preferring to talk instead about “expert systems” or “neural networks”. The rehabilitation of “AI”, and the current excitement about the field, can be traced back to 2012 and an online contest called the ImageNet Challenge."From not working to neural networking | The Economist
The British are frantically Googling what the E.U. is, hours after voting to leave it - The Washington Post
Maybe next time more UK voters will do some research before voting
"That confusion over what Brexit might mean for the country's economy appears to have been reflected across the United Kingdom on Thursday. Google reported sharp upticks in searches not only related to the ballot measure but also about basic questions concerning the implications of the vote. At about 1 a.m. Eastern time, about eight hours after the polls closed, Google reported that searches for "what happens if we leave the EU" had more than tripled."The British are frantically Googling what the E.U. is, hours after voting to leave it - The Washington Post
Friday, June 24, 2016
From a broad Benedict Evans AI reality check; also see Google uses RankBrain for every search, impacts rankings of “lots” of them (Search Engine Land)
"This is clearly a fundamental change for Google. Narrowly, image and speech recognition mean that it will be able to understand questions better and index audio, images and video better. But more importantly, it will answer questions better, and answer questions that it could never really answer before at all. Hence, as we saw at Google IO, the company is being recentered on these techniques. And of course, all of these techniques will be used in different ways to varying degrees for different use cases, just as AlphaGo uses a range of different techniques. The thing that gets the attention is ‘Google Assistant - a front-end using voice and analysis of your behaviour to try both to capture questions better and address some questions before they’re asked. But that's just the tip of the spear - the real change is in the quality of understanding of the corpus of data that Google has gathered, and in the kind of queries that Google will be able to answer in all sorts of different products. That's really just at the very beginning right now."AI, Apple and Google — Benedict Evans
Apple officially discontinues Thunderbolt Display, points users towards third-party options | 9to5Mac
I'm still hopeful Apple will introduce a Mac display with a built-in GPU and a TV display optimized for Apple TV as well
"While some are speculating that Apple pointing users towards third-party options means the company is getting out of the display business altogether, it’s more likely that it’s abandoning the “Thunderbolt Display” name. The display announced this fall could carry a name like “Apple 5K Display.”Apple officially discontinues Thunderbolt Display, points users towards third-party options | 9to5Mac
Though timing was somewhat unclear at the time, now that Apple has formally discontinued the current-gen Thunderbolt Display, it seems likely that we will see a new model sooner rather than later. Perhaps alongside the updated MacBook Pro lineup slated to be launched sometime in the fall."
Sheryl Sandberg, Eric Schmidt and a bunch of other tech heavyweights are endorsing Hillary Clinton - Recode
Summarized as"Reminder: Silicon Valley hates Donald Trump."
"Sheryl Sandberg, Eric Schmidt, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki all attached their names to an endorsement letter being circulated by Clinton’s campaign. We’ve attached the full list below, and you’ll almost certainly recognize a bunch of the venture capitalists and tech executives who have signed the letter.Sheryl Sandberg, Eric Schmidt and a bunch of other tech heavyweights are endorsing Hillary Clinton - Recode
Some of the people named (Sandberg, Schmidt) have long been involved in Democratic politics. Others (Hastings) aren’t quite cookie-cutter Democrats. But, as Hastings puts it in a quote provided by the campaign, all of them pretty much believe that “Trump would destroy much of what is great about America.”"
Exquisite timing; also see WhatsApp powers 100 million calls a day (VentureBeat)
"Shares of Twilio, a maker of software that helps companies like Uber and Nordstrom communicate with their customers, soared 92 percent on Thursday, their first day of trading after becoming the largest technology initial public offering of stock so far this year.Twilio, a Cloud-Based Business, Soars After Its I.P.O. - The New York Times
Twilio began trading in a market that has not been receptive to tech initial offerings. Only three technology companies have made their debuts so far in 2016. Additionally, Thursday was Britain’s day to vote to stay or leave the European Union, the so-called Brexit, which some feared would shake up the markets. But the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index gained 1.3 percent."
Also see C-Span Delivers on Sit-In, Even With Cameras Off (NYT) and YouTube unveils mobile live streaming at VidCon (Mashable)
"The lawmakers’ videos showed images and viewpoints of the House chamber never before seen, Mortman said. Still, C-SPAN did switch between a number of feeds from both Periscope and Facebook, seeking out the ones with the best quality, he said, adding that the traditional cameras still had the best images.Facebook Sit-In Stream Is Defining Moment for Social Video - Bloomberg
The high-profile win for live streaming could also lead to a potential sales boon for Facebook and Twitter, both of which are expanding into video as a way of wringing more revenue from advertisers eager to reach the billion-plus people who spend time on the sites."
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Later in the article: "CloudMatrix supports AWS, Azure and SoftLayer on the cloud side and VMware vCloud Director and vRealize. OpenStack and Google Cloud Platform will be added in the months to come."
"IBM is well known as a systems integrator, but is shifting to focus on so-called services integration as it pivots to be more of a cloud broker and a gateway to its own SoftLayer as well as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure as a reseller.Inside IBM's plan to become a cloud broker and even resell AWS, Microsoft Azure | ZDNet
The game plan: Use an IT as a service offering called cloudMatrix to be a gateway to public cloud providers as well as in-house infrastructure. IBM's cloudMatrix will also surface the costs and financial models associated with application and cloud architecture.
CloudMatrix on the surface is a rebranded version of what Gravitant's service provided. IBM acquired Gravitant in November. Under the hood, cloudMatrix is integrated with IBM's various platform tools and can get the scale to better surface best practices for cloud optimization."
Excerpt from a Steven Levy overview of Google's machine learning modus operandi
"Google’s new challenge is shifting its engineering workforce so everyone is familiar, if not adept, at machine learning. It’s a goal pursued now by many other companies, notably Facebook, which is just as gaga about ML and deep learning as Google is. The competition to hire recent graduates in the field is fierce, and Google tries hard to maintain its early lead; for years, the joke in academia was that Google hires top students even when it doesn’t need them, just to deny them to the competition. (The joke misses the point that Google does need them.) “My students, no matter who, always get an offer from Google.” says Domingos. And things are getting tougher: just last week, Google announced it will open a brand new machine-learning research lab in Zurich, with a whole lot of workstations to fill.How Google is Remaking Itself as a “Machine Learning First” Company — Backchannel
But since academic programs are not yet producing ML experts in huge numbers, retraining workers is a necessity. And that isn’t always easy, especially at a company like Google, with many world-class engineers who have spent a lifetime achieving wizardry through traditional coding."
Another toaster/fridge data point; my overall take-away from the review: if you want a super-thin laptop with Windows (and with a great trackpad, excellent battery life, and a fan that isn't always-on), buy a MacBook and run Windows on it
"Before getting into the details of this newest HP, however, I think it bears noting that both this new Spectre and another much-praised Windows laptop, the Dell XPS 13, eschew the 2-in-1, flip-around, multi-use gymnastic designs that characterized so many Windows laptops in the wake of the Windows 8 launch, which tried to combine tablets and laptops.Mossberg: HP aims at the Mac with a super-slim laptop - Recode
This new HP doesn’t try to be a tablet. In fact, it doesn’t even have a touchscreen (just like three of the four models of the Dell XPS 13). It’s a super-thin, light, stylish yet capable iteration of the good old clamshell laptop."
Later in the article: "And Webpass would give Google Fiber subscribers in two new markets: Miami and Boston. Webpass also provides service in Chicago, San Diego and San Francisco, where Google Fiber has announced plans to expand."
"On Wednesday, Google Fiber announced plans to acquire Webpass, a high-speed, fiber internet provider serving five cities. The deal, should regulators approve it, would be the first acquisition for the broadband unit under Alphabet and another signal of its ambition to become a competitive national player in the industry.Google Fiber is buying high-speed internet provider Webpass to expand its reach in cities - Recode
Google Fiber also made the deal to boost its efforts to deliver broadband internet wirelessly, an experimental tech it hopes will expand coverage at cheaper costs."
Also see Tesla’s Plan to Buy SolarCity Has Major Flaws (NYT); I'm assuming the acquisition will go ahead despite objections
"Tesla Motors Inc.’s plan to acquire SolarCity Corp. got a cold reception from investors and analysts, who raised concerns the takeover could prove a diversion for the electric-car maker and worsen both companies’ strained finances.Tesla Shares Hit Hard After Offer to Buy SolarCity - WSJ
Tesla shares plunged by more than 10% on Wednesday, a day after it proposed an all-stock deal valuing the solar-power company at up to $2.8 billion. Both firms are unprofitable, and SolarCity lost more than 60% of its value in the past 12 months. Its shares closed 3.3% higher."
Final paragraphs from a virtual reality reality check
"But if V.R. isn’t useful for movies and TV shows, and if it’s kind of dodgy for porn, what good is it today? There are some great games on these systems, and there are sure to be many more during the next couple of years. There are also several useful experiences, like designing your Ikea kitchen in V.R.Tripping Down a Virtual Reality Rabbit Hole - The New York Times
But if you’re not a gamer and you’re not looking for a new kitchen, V.R. is, at this point, just too immersive for most media. A few minutes after donning my goggles, I came to regard my virtual surroundings as a kind of prison. Yes, V.R. is a prison of fantastical sights and sounds and one that is at moments irresistibly exciting, but it’s a prison nevertheless. And before long, it will leave you yearning for escape."
From a timely Facebook Live profile; tangentially, see It looks like all the money Amazon is spending on streaming video is starting to pay off (Recode)
"Facebook has locked down exclusive deals for live videos from 140 major newsmakers and tastemakers. Millions of us have already friended or liked some of them. So when you get an invite to a Facebook Live show, there’s a good chance you’ll want to watch it.Live from everywhere, it’s Facebook - The Boston Globe
Facebook has also done a deal with video game maker Blizzard Entertainment, creator of “World of Warcraft” and “Overwatch.” People who play Blizzard games on a desktop PC will be able to broadcast the games over Facebook Live. Odd as it seems, watching other people play video games has become immensely popular. Amazon.com’s Twitch, a site that specializes in such broadcasts, draws 100 million unique visitors per month.
Events will also conspire to raise the profile of Facebook Live. On Wednesday, for instance, Democrats in Congress held a protest to demand a vote on gun control legislation. The House went into recess, shutting off the live video feed on C-SPAN TV. So members began streaming the event on Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope, and soon attracted an audience of thousands."
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Another clear indication it's not business-as-usual for Microsoft
"During his keynote at DockerCon 2016 in Seattle today, Azure Chief Technology Officer Mark Russinovich showed off some of the new and upcoming ways Microsoft is adding more container support to its cloud and server products. He also revealed a couple of new interesting datapoints.Microsoft: Nearly one in three Azure virtual machines now are running Linux | ZDNet
In the past year, Russinovich said, Microsoft has gone from one in four of its Azure virtual machines running Linux to nearly one in three. The other two thirds of Azure customers are running Windows Server in their virtual machines."
I'd rather have Kindle book prices return to where they were before "Apple's alleged price-fixing scheme..."
"Millions of e-book purchasers will get either credits or checks for twice their losses, legal firm Hagens Berman, which helped litigate the class action lawsuit, said on Tuesday. Apple is on the hook for $400 million in damages plus an additional $30 million to pay the legal fees for Hagens Berman and $20 million to the state attorney generals who became involved in the case.Apple starts to shell out $400 million to customers in e-book settlement - CNET
On an individual basis, each plaintiff in the suit will receive $1.57 in credit for most e-books they bought and a $6.93 credit for every e-book purchased that was on the New York Times bestseller list. Consumers who purchased e-books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Apple between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 are eligible to receive credits deposited directly in their accounts or checks sent through the mail."
This year's 'iPhone 7' will lack major design changes as Apple awaits improved technology - report (AppleInsider)
Summarizing a WSJ article on the "iPhone 7" (which is looking more like 6s +/-)
"Citing anonymous sources, the report said that Apple was unable to introduce a major design change this year because "new technology in the pipeline will take time to implement."This year's 'iPhone 7' will lack major design changes as Apple awaits improved technology - report
That aligns with recent reports, suggesting Apple has a major resign in the works for 2017, featuring a curved all-glass chassis that will be a major departure from the current form factor. It has also been claimed that Apple plans to somehow integrate the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, FaceTime camera and call speaker into the display itself for next year's model.
This year's iPhone, however, is widely expected to look largely the same as the current iPhone 6s series and its predecessor, the iPhone 6. Sources told the Journal that the elimination of the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack will allow the handset to be a millimeter thinner than the current model, and will also improve water resistance."
Check this Microsoft post for more details
"Microsoft announced this morning the launch of a new mobile app for SharePoint customers aimed at bringing a company’s SharePoint-powered intranet portal and its content to users’ smartphones and tablets. The app is initially available on iOS – meaning it will work on iPhone and iPad – but it will arrive on both Android and Windows platforms before year end, Microsoft says.Microsoft brings SharePoint to iOS | TechCrunch
The company said last month that such an app was in the works when it detailed its plans for the future of SharePoint. Used by over 200,000 organizations, SharePoint is often synonymous with the “intranet” – the internal portals businesses run behind the firewall where employees share news, files, collaborate on projects and more. However, what was lacking was a more modern, mobile-first approach to making SharePoint content available to a business’s end users no matter which device they’re using."
Slack expands the scope of scenarios for which the message is the medium
"Imagine getting an expense report in Slack and simply tapping Approve or Deny to change its status. Instead of having to search your inbox or open three new browser tabs, you’d be able to complete your task straight from Slack and move on to what’s next.Click, done. — Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog
Now you can do just that in Slack with Message Buttons. These buttons make Slack the place where you can click one button to get your work done, whether that’s posting a tweet, approving a new job posting, or filing your expense report."
Later in the article: "“The world does not lack for automotive companies,” Mr. Musk said in Tuesday’s press call. “The world lacks for sustainable energy companies.”" Also see Musk Buys Musk: Tesla’s SolarCity Deal by the Numbers (Bloomberg)
"His Tesla Motors said on Tuesday that it had offered to buy SolarCity in an all-stock deal, one that could value the latter at as much as $2.8 billion. The aim, Mr. Musk argues, is to create a renewable-energy giant, collecting clean electricity and putting it to work propelling cars.Elon Musk Aims to Shore Up SolarCity by Having Tesla Buy It - The New York Times
But the transaction highlights the unusual moves that Mr. Musk continues to make to support the various arms of his empire, where he is the largest shareholder of each company.
He has taken out loans to buy up shares in Tesla and SolarCity, some backed by his personal stock holdings in both companies — a risky move that leaves him exposed to margin calls if their stock prices slide too far. He has defended the practice as low-risk to other shareholders, given the sheer size of his personal net worth of more than $10 billion."
Perhaps the last summer for BlackBerry devices; earlier in the article: "Chief executive John Chen has said he’ll [ditch hardware altogether] if he can’t make the handset unit profitable by September."
"He can probably expect renewed pressure when BlackBerry reports earnings on Thursday. On average, 21 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect the company to post a loss of 7 cents and pull in $471 million in revenue. BlackBerry reported just $2.2 billion in revenue last fiscal year, its lowest showing since 2006. The shares have fallen about 20 percent in the last 12 months.BlackBerry diehards aren’t going down without a fight - The Boston Globe
At the end of March, about 23 million people around the world were using BlackBerrys, including the Priv Android phone, according to a company filing. Three times as many people were using the handsets two years earlier, but the continued loyalty is striking all the same."
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Also see Introducing the new mobile app for Microsoft Flow (Flow Blog)
"Competing services, including IFTTT and Zapier, have been around longer and offer a larger list of supported connections. Microsoft Flow, meanwhile, is more focused on integrations with Microsoft’s own business tools, like Office 365, Dynamics CRM, PowerApps, and Yammer, as well as those that are used in organizations, like MailChip, GitHub, Salesforce, Slack, and others.Microsoft Flow, a tool for managing workflows, launches on iOS | TechCrunch
However, you can use Microsoft Flow to automate a number of common scenarios, like getting a text message whenever your boss emails you, saving the results of a Twitter search to an Excel file, copying files from OneDrive to SharePoint, copying photos from Instagram to Dropbox, and many more."
Evidently perversity is an asset
"Facebook shareholder meetings, like most major tech company shareholder meetings, are a pretty straightforward affair.Facebook keeps its word, and Mark Zuckerberg keeps Peter Thiel on Facebook’s board - Recode
But going into today, there was one potentially interesting point of tension: Would Mark Zuckerberg reappoint investor Peter Thiel to Facebook’s board?
Well, now we have an answer. Yes, he did."
Also see Stratolaunch’s Gargantuan Flying Launchpad Edges Toward the Skies (NYT)
"Allen, who was not present during the tour but likes to “pop in” regularly at the hangar, is aiming to revolutionize space, “much as bringing the personal computer into the home revolutionized society,” Beames said.Why Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is building the world’s largest airplane - The Washington Post
Allen put it this way: “Thirty years ago, the PC revolution put computing power into the hands of millions and unlocked incalculable human potential. Twenty years ago, the advent of the Web and the subsequent proliferation of smartphones combined to enable billions of people to surmount the traditional limitations of geography and commerce. Today, expanding access to LEO holds similar revolutionary potential.”"
The AI start-up dance floor continues to empty
"Twitter paid about $150 million for Magic Pony, according to a person familiar with the matter. The terms of the deal, which were not disclosed by Twitter, were previously reported by Tech Crunch.Twitter Buys Magic Pony Technology to Expand in Machine Learning - Bloomberg
Magic Pony’s technology uses artificial intelligence for visual effects. It can be used to clean up pixelated images or create new images. It can be used to improve video streaming -- especially in environments where bandwidth and connectivity isn’t ideal -- or to automatically build landscapes for computer games."
Monday, June 20, 2016
Tesla Model S floats well enough to act as a boat, according to Elon Musk | Technology | The Guardian
"Video of vehicle floating through flooded Kazakhstan tunnel suggests electric cars can turn into makeshift boats in a pinch – but Musk doesn’t recommend it"Tesla Model S floats well enough to act as a boat, according to Elon Musk | Technology | The Guardian
Friday, June 17, 2016
From an extensive profile of Evan Williams and Medium; on a related note, see Condé Nast will purchase Backchannel, bringing Steven Levy back to the Wired group (The Verge)
"Williams and his team at Medium say they are working to resist this consolidation, though they are not doing quite what anyone else would recognize as resistance. The truth is that they themselves want to consolidate some of the web, too; and then—with that task done—govern as just, beloved, and benevolent despots. Josh Benton, a media critic at Harvard, once described Medium as “YouTube for prose,” and that’s an apt summary of what it feels like to use. But as I spend more time with Ev, I catch him thinking of Medium as a project philosophically akin to the “Foundation” novels by Isaac Asimov. The heroes of those books sought to centralize all the learning across the galaxy before a dark age set in, knowing that though they cannot stop the shadowed era, they may be able to preserve scholarship and therefore shorten it. Ev’s ambitions, though not as grandiose, follow similar lines. Medium seeks to replicate the web’s old, chaotic hubbub on a single, ordered site—because, ultimately, Ev values the chaos."Ev Williams is The Forrest Gump of the Internet - The Atlantic
Lenovo’s Tango Phone: A Preview of AR for the Masses | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
Coming soon to a Lowes near you
"Project Tango officially graduated beyond the project stage with the PHAB2 Pro announcement. The technology, initially available to developers in a tablet-based kit, uses multiple on-board cameras and sensors to enable three core technologies: motion tracking, depth perception, and area learning. In other words, the device knows where it is, what is around it, and when it moves within this space. In its early incarnations, many people referred to the technology as handheld virtual reality but that description always bothered me as VR, by definition, should be fully immersive and a handheld device—no matter how good—is never going to offer that. Lenovo wisely calls the PHAB2 Pro an AR device, a more accurate description and one that has substantially more potential."Lenovo’s Tango Phone: A Preview of AR for the Masses | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
Meme-of-the-week candidate: the "post-app Internet"
"Facebook wants to make Messenger the app to anchor a post-app Internet that lets you do everything within a chat. Need an Uber? Summon it through Messenger. Need to make a restaurant reservation? Let a chatbot do it.Facebook Messenger Has a New Home Screen to Lure You Away from Apps | WIRED
Facebook took another step toward that goal today by giving Messenger a new twist on a familiar concept: the home screen. Instead of the infinite scroll of conversations you’re familiar with, the Home tab organizes Messenger into recent conversations, favorites, active users, and messages awaiting a response. A handy shortcut also reminds you about any Facebook friends celebrating a birthday today. “We’re hoping this helps extend and open up the functionalities of Messenger to more people,” says Facebook product manager Andrew Song."
Tangentially, see Amazon hires AI expert to ward off Google in its cloud business (Recode) and Google revs its AI engines with a new European research group (IDG)
"Microsoft didn't disclose financial information, but it’s probably a deal for talent and tech. Wand had raised just over $2.6 million in a seed round; its CEO, Vishal Sharma, spent seven years at Google including a stint on Now, its mobile personal assistant.Microsoft is buying a Wand to add new magic to Cortana and its bots - Recode
At Microsoft, he’ll be working on the software giant’s intelligence products, which are shifting away from competing with Google on search to a big focus on conversational AI tools, or bots."
Likely to be a big problem for Salesforce, long-term
"While Microsoft has maintained an interest in LinkedIn for several years, the software giant didn’t initiate the conversations that led to the current deal, said people familiar with the process. Rather LinkedIn Executive Chairman Reid Hoffman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Weiner reached out to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to let him know that they were proceeding with a sale process that had led them to hire bankers and contact other potential buyers, the people said.Salesforce Said to Have Been Rival Suitor for LinkedIn - Bloomberg
Salesforce, which competes with Microsoft in providing cloud-based software and services to businesses, could have used LinkedIn’s vast trove of data on workers around the world to bolster tools that help customers close sales deals. LinkedIn profiles are packed with information on everything from users’ skills and responsibilities at past jobs to methods for contacting them."
From a stark Twitter reality check; for a recent Twitter business model innovation, see Twitter introduces emoji-targeted advertising, eggplant industry rejoices (CNET)
"But if the reasons for a Twitter deal seem so obvious and compelling, why hasn’t it happened yet? The fact is that Twitter faces some unique challenges, and just because it’s a big social media site and prominent Silicon Valley denizen doesn’t mean it’s going to attract a suitor. Yahoo has been openly shopping itself for months, and would-be buyers haven’t exactly been beating down its door.Microsoft-LinkedIn Deal Ignites Twitter Speculation - The New York Times
In April, Twitter reported disappointingly flat user growth and worse-than-expected revenue, and said it was still operating at a substantial loss under generally accepted accounting rules. Investors fled, driving the stock to new lows, and media critics piled on. The Slate technology columnist David Auerbach went so far as to say: “Twitter as we know it is over.”"
The First Big Company to Say It’s Serving the Legal Marijuana Trade? Microsoft. - The New York Times
"But Microsoft is breaking the corporate taboo on pot this week by announcing a partnership to begin offering software that tracks marijuana plants from “seed to sale,” as the pot industry puts it.The First Big Company to Say It’s Serving the Legal Marijuana Trade? Microsoft. - The New York Times
The software — a new product in Microsoft’s cloud computing business — is meant to help states that have legalized the medical or recreational use of marijuana keep tabs on sales and commerce, ensuring that they remain in the daylight of legality."
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Check the full article for more details
"There are three main challenges to Microsoft’s plans. It is shelling out the equivalent of around $250 for each monthly user of LinkedIn to purchase the firm. To keep shareholders happy, it will need to add users to LinkedIn’s platform more quickly or be clearer about how it can make more money from their data.Making sense of Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn | The Economist
The second is Microsoft’s poor track record with big deals. Its purchase of Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion has been no runaway success. Microsoft squandered over $6.3 billion on aQuantive, an online-advertising firm that it bought in 2007, and $7.2 billion on Nokia’s handset business in 2014. Both disasters happened before Mr Nadella took over, but “the historic playbook says it’s not going to work,” reckons Brent Thill, an analyst at UBS, a bank. Mr Nadella intends to keep LinkedIn as an independent company, perhaps because he has seen the pitfalls of integrating large acquisitions at first hand."
The article title is a bit over-the-top, and this looks like a very useful feature; it also suggests the new Apple multi-device clipboard model is leveraging Schema.org
"As revealed in a prerelease beta of iOS 10 software, Apple Maps now watches what users are copying/pasting in their iPhone or iPad. Copy an address, for example, and Apple Maps' new app widget will offer driving directions. That works even if you copy a location in Google Maps -- making it easy for you to send directions to a friend by text or email.Apple Maps in iOS 10 is watching you, even when you're using Google Maps - CNET
After you copy an address in Google Maps, Apple Maps acknowledges it's been watching you with the message "Recently viewed in Google Maps." Depending on the source, the message could also say "Recently viewed in Waze" if coming from Google's crowdsourced traffic app or "Recently viewed in Safari" if coming from the web.
It's unclear if the data is transmitted to Apple."
In other baffling Samsung news, see Report claims that Samsung is considering moving all of its devices to Tizen (9to5 Google)
"Samsung said late Wednesday it is buying startup Joyent, which provides hosted cloud computing to various companies.Samsung is buying cloud computing startup Joyent - Recode
In a blog post, Joyent CEO Scott Hammond said that his company would operate as an independent subsidiary serving existing customers while adding Samsung as an “anchor tenant” giving the company the heft it has lacked to compete against larger players, such as Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure.
“We lacked the scale required to compete effectively in the large, rapidly growing and fiercely competitive cloud computing market,” Hammond said. “Now, that changes.""
High-stakes bets -- later in the article: "It could be a rocky transition to the new release pace. It may not work at all, really, as people continue to predict the death of the console as PC gaming sees a resurgence and mobile gaming continues to grow like crazy."
"Microsoft this week announced not just one but two new consoles in development. The firm unveiled the Xbox One S — a 4K-compatible, slimmed-down version of the Xbox One that’s coming in August. But at the same time, the company also announced the Xbox One S’s successor, a souped-up console called Project Scorpio that supports both 4K gaming and high-quality virtual reality, slated for the holidays in 2017.Did Microsoft royally flub its new console launch? - The Washington Post
All of this raises a critical question: Why would anyone who knows a better Xbox is coming out later buy an Xbox One S this August?"
If this seems like an unlikely partnership, check Wikipedia's List of acquisitions by Oracle and search for "marketing"
"Snapchat is competing with sites such as Facebook Inc., which can tell advertisers detailed information about an ad viewer’s demographics and interests. Companies can also more easily see something they posted go viral, while Snapchat’s videos and photos disappear after they’re viewed.Snapchat Strikes Partnership With Oracle to Prove Its Ads Work - Bloomberg
According to Oracle, at least, Snapchat’s ads are working. As part of the data partnership, announced Wednesday, the company said 92 percent of ads for consumer packaged goods drove higher in-store sales. By analyzing Snapchat marketing campaigns for products such as deodorant and cereals, Oracle aims to help retailers improve their success, the company said in a statement."
From an extensive Netflix snapshot
"They had good reason to celebrate. Netflix, since its streaming service debuted in 2007, has had its annual revenue grow sixfold, to $6.8 billion from $1.2 billion. More than 81 million subscribers pay Netflix $8 to $12 a month, and slowly but unmistakably these consumers are giving up cable for internet television: Over the last five years, cable has lost 6.7 million subscribers; more than a quarter of millennials (70 percent of whom use streaming services) report having never subscribed to cable in their lives. Those still paying for cable television were watching less of it. In 2015, for instance, television viewing time was down 3 percent; and 50 percent of that drop was directly attributable to Netflix, according to a study by MoffettNathanson, an investment firm that tracks the media business."Later in the article, related to the next post
"Reed Hastings doesn’t have an office. “My office is my phone,” he says. “I found I was rarely using my cubicle, and I just had no need for it. It is better for me to be meeting people all around the building.”"Can Netflix Survive in the New World It Created? - The New York Times
A very large-scale experiment to prove that distractions negatively impact productivity...
"“My dream is I can push a button and the cone of the silence just falls on me,” he said.
Between 80 and 90 percent of office spaces renovated in the past two years have some sort of open floor plan, according to the architecture and design firm HOK. The idea behind ditching so-called cubicle farms is to encourage workers to interact, as well as squeeze more people into smaller spaces — a cost-cutting trend exacerbated by the 2008 recession.
Wireless technology gives people the freedom to work from anywhere and millennials are accustomed to sharing everything, the reasoning goes, so some businesses are abandoning assigned desks altogether. Employees put their coats and purses in lockers, store papers in mobile filing cabinets, display family phones on their iPhones — and grab the first empty seat they can find."Pining for the cubicle? Believe it. - The Boston Globe
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Perhaps time to ask if Russia or China has a backup copy
"A corrupted database in the US Air Force's inspector general and legislative liaison divisions has reportedly put more than 100,000 internal investigation records in jeopardy.Computer crash wipes out a decade of US Air Force data - CNET
The database, called the Automated Case Tracking System, was run by defense firm Lockheed Martin. It was corrupted last month and the firm spent two weeks trying to recover data before notifying the Air Force on June 6, according to Defense One.
The database held information about current investigations as well as all records related to IG complaints, appeals and Freedom of Information Act requests, according to The Hill."
Investing in education
""Because Swift is so easy to learn, it has the potential to bring many more people into coding," Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said. "Swift Playgrounds will revolutionize how people learn to code."Apple, Microsoft and Google race to introduce your kid to coding - CNET
Cook sounds earnest about his company's efforts to improve computer literacy and seemed genuinely pleased that WWDC's youngest attendee is 9 years old. But there are sound business reasons for the push, too. Two of the company's top rivals, Google and Microsoft, are trying hard to attract the attention of bright young coders. Today's primary-school students are tomorrow's college students, engineers and business decision-makers, and making a good impression on them now can pay dividends for decades to come."
tbd if Microsoft's 7 +/- 2 conversation-oriented tools were also organizationally aligned; also see The future of Office may lie in 'decomposable' documents (PC World)
"The company combined PowerPoint, Word and the Sway interactive-presentation app, all tools for content creation, while putting data and analytics tools like the Excel spreadsheet and Access database together, she said on Tuesday at the Bloomberg Technology Conference in San Francisco.Microsoft Reorganizes Office Group to Focus on Common Tasks - Bloomberg
“We want to have people focusing on the task they are trying to do and not the tools,” Larson-Green said. The idea is to enable the company to “think more broadly and more deeply about the future of those technology areas and the future of that kind of content creation rather than focusing so much on the individual applications themselves.”"
Sign of the times
"The DNC said that no financial, donor or personal information appears to have been accessed or taken, suggesting that the breach was traditional espionage, not the work of criminal hackers.Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump - The Washington Post
The intrusions are an example of Russia’s interest in the U.S. political system and its desire to understand the policies, strengths and weaknesses of a potential future president — much as American spies gather similar information on foreign candidates and leaders.
The depth of the penetration reflects the skill and determination of the United States’ top cyber adversary as Russia goes after strategic targets, from the White House and State Department to political campaign organizations."
On a related note: The New iMessage Is Great. But Why on Earth Isn’t It on Android? (Wired)
"Right now, when you’re in Facebook Messenger, you can call an Uber or pay a friend back for a Slurpee. In China, my friends use WeChat to pay all their bills—even traffic tickets. Google’s forthcoming Allo app will allow you to make dinner reservations for friends. In Slack, the exploding business-focused messaging service, you can easily add items to a shared to-do list and share articles without ever leaving.Apple Just Improved the Most Important Social Network in Your Life - WSJ
Although we won’t really know if Apple built a better messaging system until we start using it with our loved ones this fall, the updates could keep us from straying to one of those competing options. With a lot of key functionality and openness—and a few well-placed stickers—Apple’s messaging network can carry it into the future."
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Perhaps not the final challenge, but a big milestone
"The 2-1 court ruling Tuesday forces Internet providers such as Verizon and Comcast to obey federal regulations that ban the blocking or slowing of Internet traffic to consumers. The regulations from the Federal Communications Commission also forbid carriers from selectively speeding up websites that agree to pay the providers a fee — a tactic critics have said could unfairly tilt the commercial playing field against startups and innovators who may not be able to afford it.Cable and telecom companies just lost a huge court battle on net neutrality - The Washington Post
More broadly, the decision affirms Washington's ability to regulate Internet providers like legacy telephone companies. Approved in a bitterly partisan vote last year, the move by the FCC to "reclassify" Internet providers significantly expanded the agency's role in overseeing the industry. It opened up Internet providers to all-new obligations they were not subject to before, such as privacy requirements that all telecom companies currently follow in order to protect consumers' personal data."
Check the full article for an overview of IBM's "cognitive collaboration" strategy and product line-up
"The company that first brought the industry the then-breakthrough technology of groupware in the 1990s is now moving towards cognitive collaboration for differentiation, says IBM's new head of product management for collaboration, Ed Brill, as he grapples with the company's many offerings in the space."Exploring IBM's vision for enterprise collaboration | ZDNet
From slide 11 of the Microsoft deal overview referenced below: "We also have the opportunity to accelerate the realization of the Economic Graph"
"The tl;dr reason: It's all about the data.Why Microsoft just bought LinkedIn: It's all about the data | ZDNet
The slightly longer version: For the potential synergies involving Microsoft's Office 365, Dynamics CRM/ERP and advertising products and services.
Microsoft's slide deck that outlines potential scenarios involving the two companies emphasizes that management view the deal as connecting the "world's leading professional cloud" and "the professional network."
Microsoft and LinkedIn have both been building out their respective graphs. Microsoft's graph is a collection of information pertaining to entities like contacts, messages, calendar entries and documents. LinkedIn's graph centers around entity information regarding jobs, coworkers, learning, prospects and recruiting/hiring."
A market dynamics snapshot as the "It's the apps, stupid" era winds down
"This decreased focus on individual apps and increase focus on services isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s arguably the general direction that software development—particularly on mobile devices—is going. In China, for example, you can get access to these kinds of services and much more in WeChat. These developments do, however, imply a fairly major shift in the role that developers can and will have with Apple and end users. They also imply a major rethink in terms of what an “app” actually is.Apple Drives Apps into Services | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
In essence, the new app model in this services-focused approach is a “service extension,” which strikes me as being much more similar to the “skills” you can add to an Amazon Echo than a traditional app."
So perhaps sort of like Google's take on Office Graph + Delve and SharePoint modern document libraries + Office Online
"Google Springboard helps you find the right information that you need at the moment that you need it. It searches quickly and easily across all of your information in Google Apps including Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Drive, Contacts and more. Springboard also assists you throughout your workday by proactively providing useful and actionable information and recommendations.Official Google for Work Blog: Powering a more connected and collaborative enterprise
With the new Google Sites, you can build beautiful, functional pages to aggregate and distribute content across your enterprise, optimized for every screen. A new intuitive drag-and-drop design experience supports real-time collaboration by multiple editors, just like in Docs, and offers easy access to all your content from Calendar, Docs, Drive, Maps and more. The new Sites also includes themes and layouts designed to scale and flex to any screen size, so they’re as useful when you access them on the 30-inch monitor at your desk or your smartphone on your commute."
Check this Wikipedia article for a differential privacy overview; also see Apple’s ‘Differential Privacy’ Is About Collecting Your Data—But Not Your Data (Wired)
"A theory has taken hold in tech: Apple’s devotion to privacy will handicap it during the next major wave of computing, where artificial intelligence like voice interaction, personal assistants and automation take center stage.Here’s how Apple plans to protect privacy and still compete on AI - Recode
This morning Apple gave its response: It won’t handicap us, because we can do both.
Apple’s answer? A concept called "differential privacy" — an en vogue statistical method designed to reap useful intel from big piles of data while protecting personally identifying information therein."
Ordering a multi-person lunch via chat is now a killer app; also see What You Need to Know About Apple’s Software Upgrades (NYT)
"On Monday, Apple said it was allowing access to two of its crown jewels — Siri and its messaging app, iMessage — hoping that the creativity of outside developers will spur a round of innovation to make the iPhone seem as magical as it did when the first apps were introduced eight years ago.Apple to Offer App Developers Access to Siri and iMessage - The New York Times
Showing off how developers could use messaging, an Apple executive opened the food-delivery app DoorDash from inside Apple iMessage and put together a joint order with friends.
Earlier this year, Facebook opened up Messenger to bots, automated software assistants that can accomplish various tasks. Google also announced plans to introduce a messaging service with similar capabilities."
Also see Twitter stock jumps as Microsoft-LinkedIn deal could spur more acquisitions (Bloomberg)
"Think the Business Network, not the Social Network, as the addition of LinkedIn’s vast amounts of data makes Microsoft’s corporate software products more powerful.
For example, a saleswoman using Microsoft’s sales software could get an instant readout on the careers and interests of every executive she’ll meet on her next call, and search for potential new leads among all their friends. There’s no easy way to do that now.
LinkedIn is “where we have our professional lives,” said Jeffrey Hammond, principal analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge. “It’s data that is highly unique and . . . is not easily replicated.”"Microsoft bets on the Business Network - The Boston Globe
Monday, June 13, 2016
Likely to be a better ROI than Microsoft's last couple mega-acquisitions... Also see Here's what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told employees about the LinkedIn buy (BusinessInsider)
"Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and LinkedIn Corporation (NYSE: LNKD) on Monday announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire LinkedIn for $196 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at $26.2 billion, inclusive of LinkedIn’s net cash. LinkedIn will retain its distinct brand, culture and independence. Jeff Weiner will remain CEO of LinkedIn, reporting to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. Reid Hoffman, chairman of the board, co-founder and controlling shareholder of LinkedIn, and Weiner both fully support this transaction. The transaction is expected to close this calendar year."Microsoft to acquire LinkedIn | News Center
It takes >= 2 to Tango; also see Google's Tango site
"The initiative, previously called Project Tango, is Google's ambitious plan to map the indoor world. Google Maps is already wildly popular, with more than 1 billion users. But where Maps is a cartographer's dream on steroids, Tango isn't concerned with streets and rivers and national parks. Tango is for everything underneath rooftops: hallways, offices, ballrooms and -- perhaps more importantly for Google's advertising ambitions -- the stuff inside those rooms, like furniture and products on shelves.With Tango, Google is now equipped to map the entire world -- inside and out - CNET
On Thursday, the Chinese device maker Lenovo unveiled the first consumer smartphone infused with Google's Tango technology. The $500 phone, called the Phab 2 Pro, will have a 6.4-inch screen and be available by September. (The phone itself is hulking, and Jeff Meredith, the head of Lenovo's mobile business group, said devices with both smaller and bigger screens are coming.)"
Something to think about
"If the data is any indication, most of us use our phones more than we think: Participants estimated an average of 37 uses throughout the day (anything that turns on the screen, from hitting snooze to making a call), but the actual number was around 85. The slight majority took less than 30 seconds. (Participants also underestimated duration of use by about an hour — the real total was 5.05 hours — which included phone calls and listening to music when the screen was off.)The End of Reflection - The New York Times
If you are awake for 16 hours, turning on or checking your phone 85 times means doing so about once every 11 minutes (and doesn’t account for internet use on a computer), and 5.05 hours is over 30 percent of the day. What might be the effect on reflection of this compulsive behavior?"
For more Area 1 details, see A Computer Security Start-Up Turns the Tables on Hackers (NYT)
"Two years ago, the Cates received a visit from men informing them that their server had become a conduit for Chinese spies. The Cates asked: “Are you from the N.S.A.?”The Chinese Hackers in the Back Office - The New York Times
One of the men had, in fact, worked at the National Security Agency years before joining a start-up company, Area 1, that focuses on tracking digital attacks against businesses. “It’s like being a priest,” said Blake Darché, Area 1’s chief security officer, of his N.S.A. background. “In other people’s minds, you never quite leave the profession.”"
Tangentially, see Life in the People’s Republic of WeChat (Bloomberg)
"In 2014, Facebook hired David Marcus, a former PayPal executive, to lead its messaging efforts. By beefing up payment services, Facebook is taking a page out of Tencent’s playbook.Inside Facebook’s Plan to Get Users to Buy Flowers in Messenger - Bloomberg
“You can literally do everything within WeChat,” Aunkur Arya, general manager for mobile at Braintree, a unit of PayPal, said in an interview. “A lot of companies in the West are looking at that and trying to recreate that experience.”
To get there, Facebook needs to collect more of its users’ payment credentials, though, the way Amazon.com already does."
Friday, June 10, 2016
Final paragraph from the latest installment in Charles Fitzgerald's multi-part VR reality check; see the full post for his insights on HTC Vive, Oculus, and other VR topics
"Your assignment for the summer is to try the Vive and get a taste of the VR future. VR has to be experienced to be appreciated (and is mandatory for discussing it in any form). If you have only done Oculus, Gear VR or, god forbid, 360 videos on your phone (aka NOT VR!!!), you can’t fully appreciate what is coming."Virtual Reality Realities: Summer 2016 – Platformonomics
Excerpt from a rebuttal of the most recent Tesla controversy; tangentially, see Tesla Knows When a Crash Is Your Fault, and Other Carmakers Soon Will, Too (Technology Review)
"There is no car company in the world that cares more about safety than Tesla and our track record reflects that. The Model S is 5-star safety rated in every category and sub-category and Model X is expected to receive the same rating as soon as the government finishes testing. Recently, a Model S was in a very high speed accident in Germany that caused it to fly 82 feet through the air, an event that would likely be fatal in vehicles not designed to the level of safety of a Tesla. All five occupants were able to exit the vehicle under their own power and had no life-threatening injuries.A Grain of Salt | Tesla Motors
Finally, it is worth noting that the blogger who fabricated this issue, which then caused negative and incorrect news to be written about Tesla by reputable institutions, is Edward Niedermayer. This is the same gentle soul who previously wrote a blog titled “Tesla Death Watch,” which starting on May 19, 2008 was counting the days until Tesla’s death. It has now been 2,944 days. We just checked our pulse and, much to his chagrin, appear to be alive. It is probably wise to take Mr. Niedermayer’s words with at least a small grain of salt."
New semantics for punctuation
"In fact, the understated period — the punctuation equivalent of stagehands who dress in black to be less conspicuous — may have suddenly taken on meanings all its ownPeriod. Full Stop. Point. Whatever It’s Called, It’s Going Out of Style - The New York Times
Increasingly, says Professor Crystal, whose books include “Making a Point: The Persnickety Story of English Punctuation,” the period is being deployed as a weapon to show irony, syntactic snark, insincerity, even aggression
If the love of your life just canceled the candlelit, six-course, home-cooked dinner you have prepared, you are best advised to include a period when you respond “Fine.” to show annoyance
“Fine” or “Fine!,” in contrast, could denote acquiescence or blithe acceptance"
A less dismal future for some economists
"It was the first formal gathering of tech company economists, according to NABE Executive Director Tom Beers, and included numerous stars of the consumer Internet. The other attendees at the daylong meeting, held at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, had similar tales to tell. Hal Varian, the Google economist who helped develop the AdWords marketplace, was there. Keith Chen, of Uber, presented a paper on the company’s surge-pricing policy that refuted earlier research that said taxi drivers wouldn’t work in the rain. Economists from Amazon.com, Netflix, and LinkedIn elaborated on their work as well.The World’s Top Economists Want to Work for Amazon and Facebook - Bloomberg
Later, the group headed over to AT&T Park to watch the San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres, 5-4.
“It was like a geek dream come true,” said Nela Richardson of the real estate brokerage Redfin."
Just in case the hardware and cloud services businesses don't work out...
"Apple Inc. plans to sell excess electricity generated by solar panels on the roof of its new headquarters in Cupertino, California, joining Google parent Alphabet Inc. in efforts to trade on the energy market.
A subsidiary named Apple Energy LLC has applied to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to sell power from the site’s solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells, as well as from solar farms, hydroelectric plants and biogas facilities in Oregon, North Carolina, California, Nevada and Arizona, according to a June 6 application submitted by Apple to the agency. The filing was reported earlier by 9to5Mac.com."Apple Plans to Sell Excess Rooftop Solar Energy From New Home - Bloomberg
I think it's time for me to reread Finite and Infinite Games...
"The posthuman future has never been easier to imagine—especially for those, like Musk, who work at the forefront of technology. Yet the idea that we are living in a kind of time loop adds a wrinkle to this dream. Maybe we’ll never reach the posthuman stage; at some point, technological development will cease. Perhaps our posthuman descendants simply won’t want to make simulations (although, given our own interest in doing so, that seems unlikely). Or perhaps our species will go extinct before we learn how to simulate ourselves. “Maybe we should be hopeful that this is a simulation,” Musk concluded, last week, since “either we’re going to create simulations that are indistinguishable from reality or civilization will cease to exist. Those are the two options.” If you hope that humanity will survive into the far future, growing in power and knowledge all the while, then you must accept the possibility that we are being simulated today."What Are the Odds We Are Living in a Computer Simulation? - The New Yorker
From a stranger-than-fiction profile of Silicon Valley and its portrayal in "Silicon Valley;" also see Uncanny Silicon Valley: The absolutely definitive, supremely authoritative, person-to-person mapping of “Silicon Valley” characters to real tech world personalities (Backchannel) and, tangentially, San Francisco bracing for life after tech bubble (Bloomberg)
"“Silicon Valley,” now in its third season, is one of the funniest shows on television; it is also the first ambitious satire of any form to shed much light on the current socio-cultural moment in Northern California. The show derives its energy from two semi-contradictory attitudes: contempt for grandiose tech oligarchs and sympathy for the entrepreneurs struggling to unseat them. In the pilot episode, Richard Hendricks, a shy but brilliant engineer, designs a compression algorithm—an ingenious way to make big files smaller. He later turns this innovation into a company, which he insists on calling Pied Piper. (Richard: “It’s a classic fairy tale.” Employee: “It’s about a predatory flautist who murders children in a cave.”) As his company grows, Richard becomes a nerd David beset by Goliaths: duplicitous board members, corporations trying to steal his intellectual property. Can he succeed without compromising his values? The deep irony of Richard’s situation—that his ultimate goal, presumably, is to become a Goliath himself—either has not yet come up in the writer’s room or is being tabled for later."How “Silicon Valley” Nails Silicon Valley - The New Yorker
Thursday, June 09, 2016
If you're not using multi-factor authentication, now would probably be a good time to start...
"LeakedSource says the cache of Twitter data contains 32,888,300 records, including email addresses, usernames, and passwords. LeakedSource has added the information to its search engine, which is paid but lets people remove leaked information for free.Passwords for 32M Twitter accounts may have been hacked and leaked | TechCrunch
Based on information in the data (including the fact that many of the passwords are displayed in plaintext), LeakedSource believes that the user credentials were collected by malware infecting browsers like Firefox or Chrome rather than stolen directly from Twitter. Many of the affected users appear to be in Russia—six of the top 10 email domains represented in the database are Russian, including mail.ru and yandex.ru."