"Advertisers, worried that Google and Facebook are effectively becoming a duopoly, might bite. “With Facebook and Google taking an estimated 78 cents of every new digital dollar spent, having a viable third option is welcome,” said Joe Marchese, president of advanced ad products at Fox Networks.Yahoo and the Online Universe According to Verizon - The New York Times
“Advertisers want to make it work,” Mr. Wieser said. “There’s really interest in supporting and propping up a well-run No. 3.”
Yet for Verizon to believe it will have an easy path is “willful optimism,” Mr. Wieser said. It ignores Google and Facebook’s dominance of online advertising. Together the Silicon Valley rivals control nearly half of the worldwide online ad market, generating close to $80 billion in sales. In recent days both Facebook and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, reported healthy quarterly results, suggesting that they are only growing stronger."
Sunday, July 31, 2016
Maybe they'll change the company name to Verizon!
A cloudy future for Oracle
"While Lawrence J. Ellison, Oracle’s brash executive chairman, is still an outsize personality at the company he co-founded, Mr. Kurian has been the key figure in Oracle’s attempted reinvention, overseeing sweeping changes in its engineering. That includes the creation of a network of 21 data centers around the world, a project that has cost perhaps $15 billion. NetSuite is Oracle’s first major acquisition intended to tie right into this new global system.For Oracle, Money’s Not the Problem. It’s Coping With the Cloud. - The New York Times
“Money isn’t the problem for us,” said Mr. Kurian, who is Oracle’s president of product development. He added that “between 2004 and 2014 we spent some $40 billion to $45 billion on acquisitions.”"
Friday, July 29, 2016
A late-binding case study in process
"Dan Dodge, the founder and former chief executive officer of QNX, the operating system developer that BlackBerry acquired in 2010, joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. He is part of a team headed by Bob Mansfield, who, since taking over leadership of the cars initiative -- dubbed Project Titan -- has heralded a shift in strategy, according to a person familiar with the plan.Apple Hires BlackBerry Talent With Car Project Turning to Self-Driving Software - Bloomberg
The initiative is now prioritizing the development of an autonomous driving system, though it’s not abandoning efforts to design its own vehicle. That leaves options open should the company eventually decide to partner with or acquire an established car maker, rather than build a car itself. An Apple spokesman declined to comment."
On a related note, see Amazon Cloud Unit Helps It Stay Profitable While Investing (Bloomberg Businessweek)
"Those hires, combined with new products, have helped Google sell cloud-based software and services more effectively to large companies -- something it struggled to do before Greene arrived. "We now have key leadership in place and centralized teams," Pichai said. "I see a shift to a world-class enterprise approach and it’s definitely having an impact on the type of conversations we are having."Google Results Show Signs of Cloud Progress Under Greene - Bloomberg
Cloud computing is a strategic growth area for Google, which is seeking to turn the infrastructure it built for its mammoth web operations into services that other businesses can rent. The market for cloud services in 2016 is worth about $204 billion, according to Gartner. Though Google is praised for technical expertise, it is fourth in cloud services behind Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp., according to Synergy Research Group."
Tangentially, see These businesses are booming thanks to Russian hackers (The Washington Post)
"Two of the biggest names in government data leaks clashed over how to responsibly release information on Twitter on Thursday.A Twitter spat breaks out between Snowden and WikiLeaks - The Washington Post
It started when Edward Snowden tweeted that WikiLeaks' "hostility to even modest curation" was a mistake. WikiLeaks wasn't happy about the criticism -- and hit Snowden back by accusing him of pandering to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton."
From an Amazon earnings overview
"What is most striking about its recent habit of showing profits is that Amazon has not suddenly become stingy about making investments. In a conference call, Amazon’s chief financial officer, Brian Olsavsky, said that the company would open 18 new fulfillment centers — the warehouses from which it processes customer orders — in the third quarter of this year, three times the number it opened in the same period last year.Amazon’s Profits Grow More Than 800 Percent, Lifted by Cloud Services - The New York Times
Amazon plans to nearly double its spending on digital video during the second half of the year as it expands the offerings of its Netflix-like streaming service, he said. That spending increase reflects a nearly tripling in the number of original television shows and movies financed by Amazon.
“I would not take our financial results as an indication we’re running out of investment opportunities,” Mr. Olsavsky said."
A solid week for "the four horsemen of the Internet"
"It’s good to be Google. Sometimes it’s just plain great.Google Silences Doubters With Blockbuster Quarter - The New York Times
Revenue regularly increases at a clip rarely achieved by firms of its size. The same goes for profits. Seven of its products have over a billion users, a scale unimaginable in the predigital era. A reorganization last year into a holding company called Alphabet, accompanied by some related high-level personnel moves, was unexpected but generally applauded.
Investors and analysts see little in the short term to disrupt this happy state of affairs, which has pushed Alphabet’s value to more than $500 billion. Those sentiments were confirmed in its second-quarter earnings report, released Thursday after the market closed. It was even better than the rosy forecasts."
Thursday, July 28, 2016
One way to accelerate Oracle's cloud business
"“Oracle and NetSuite cloud applications are complementary, and will coexist in the marketplace forever,” Mark Hurd, chief executive of Oracle, said in the statement.Oracle to Acquire NetSuite for $9.3 Billion - The New York Times
Mr. Ellison, Oracle’s founder and chairman, is one of the most acquisitive software executives in the world, although this transaction is among his largest. Mr. Ellison owns a 27 percent stake in the company and the two companies have partnered in the past on ventures to bring cloud services to smaller businesses."
Conclusion of a recent OneNote market dynamics overview I wrote; for another recent perspective, see What went wrong in the wiki market?
"After a long and sometimes winding road since its first release in 2003, OneNote now reflects the best of the revitalized and cloud-first, mobile-first Microsoft and is likely to continue winning loyal users for years to come. If you're interested in exploring a more modern approach to content and collaboration, compared to traditional document-centric alternatives, Microsoft OneNote is a great place to start."Microsoft OneNote goes mainstream after long adolescence
More bad news for Twitter
"What Mark Zuckerberg said on today’s earnings call was that “The growing way that people use search is to find what people are saying about a topic across more that [sic] 2.5 trillion posts. Now people are doing more than 2 billion searches a day between looking up people, businesses, and other things they care about.”Facebook sees 2 billion searches per day, but it’s attacking Twitter not Google | TechCrunch
What wasn’t said but is clearly implied is that it that Facebook thinks you should talk about things on Facebook because your words will find new audiences thanks to its powerful search engine and massive user base. Twitter has ruled this space, but Facebook has been trying to catch since launching public post search last year."
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Meanwhile, Twitter Might Want to Steal From Yahoo’s Playbook (NYT on Verizon/Twitter scenario)
"Facebook Inc's quarterly profit and revenue blew past Wall Street estimates on Wednesday, sending its shares to a record high, as the social media company's popular mobile app and push into video attracted new advertisers and encouraged existing ones to spend more.Facebook Trounces Wall Street Estimates With Sharp Ad Sales Growth - The New York Times
Facebook shares rose 6.5 percent in after-hours trading to $131.40, their highest since the company went public in 2012.
Mobile advertising revenue accounted for 84 percent of the company's total advertising revenue, compared with 76 percent a year earlier."
Also see 'Treason'? Critics savage Trump over Russia hack comments (Politico)
"“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras during a news conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”On a related note, from Why Trump Really Doesn't Want to Release Those Returns (The Atlantic):
Mr. Trump’s call was an extraordinary moment at a time when Russia is being accused of meddling in the United States’ presidential election. His comments came amid questions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, which American intelligence agencies have told the White House they have “high confidence” was the work of the Russian government."
"And if Russia really wanted to prove that they are not partial to Trump, and if his returns were filed by his team or are kept by the IRS in electronic form, then the Russians could release his returns for him. Somehow I doubt that will happen."Donald Trump Calls on Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Missing Emails - The New York Times
Excerpt from a timely email reality check; also see Spy Agency Consensus Grows That Russia Hacked D.N.C. (NYT)
"If, however, you’re more concerned about your email being read by external attackers in, say, Russia, then the perceived security of handling all your own email may do more harm than good. And if your area of expertise is political strategizing and maneuvering, rather than encryption protocols and firewall configurations, you would almost certainly be better off delegating responsibility for your email to a company that knows what it’s doing.The DNC should never have been running its own email server.
Alternatively, you can decide never ever to send another email that contains anything snarky, stupid, condescending, embarrassing, or rude. I, for one, solemnly make this vow after every published breach of email correspondence (I will never send another email that I would not be comfortable seeing printed on the front page of the New York Times), and it lasts roughly three minutes, until I’m seized by the need to share a particularly pointed insult of someone with my college roommate. So for those of us who will never be able to completely sanitize our inboxes, it’s worth thinking carefully about who we want protecting them."
New Yorkers Greet the Arrival of Wi-Fi Kiosks With Panic, Skepticism and Relief - The New York Times
A LinkNYC snapshot as it reaches 300 activated kiosks, on the way to 7,500+
"Along Eighth Avenue in Midtown, some homeless people are camping around the kiosks. Sascha Freudenheim, who runs a consulting firm on West 36th Street, said the way some people were using the kiosks “seems completely counter to their purpose.” Mr. Freudenheim said he thought they would be used to help people find their way around the city, not serve as gathering spots.New Yorkers Greet the Arrival of Wi-Fi Kiosks With Panic, Skepticism and Relief - The New York Times
Residents of more residential neighborhoods have complained that the kiosks are too bright, too loud and more attractive to idle squatters than they are to busy passers-by in need of a quick connection. Other New Yorkers are demonstrating their usual skepticism, eyeing the kiosks warily and wondering what the catch is."
From an extensive Facebook VR profile
"Zuckerberg, asked about this directly, doesn’t flinch at the thought of building a NASA-like research park for VR. “This is early, and it’s going to be a long-term thing,” he says. “This is a good candidate to be the next major computing platform. It’s worthy of a lot of investment over a long period.”Facebook’s really big plans for virtual reality
He often talks of connecting the world. But with virtual reality, the terms of that connection have been upped exponentially. “We’ve connected 1.65 billion people through Facebook,” Zuckerberg says. “But if you want to help get all 7 billion people connected and make a step function in the fidelity of how people can share and consume content, you need to make significant investments in some of these longer-term things where you actually don’t know what the time horizon is. … I don’t know who said this first, but it’s not hard to predict what the world will be like in 20 years. The hard thing is actually predicting or figuring out how to get there.”"
Apparently planning to transition from telecommunications oligopolist to Internet advertising oligopolist
"“Yahoo is a complementary business to AOL, giving us market-leading content brands and a valuable portfolio of online properties and mobile applications that attract over 1 billion monthly active consumer views," McAdam said. "We expect this acquisition to put us in a great position as a top global mobile media company and give us a significant source of revenue growth for the future.”Verizon’s mixed quarter shows why it needs AOL and Yahoo - The Washington Post
Perhaps the most significant part of the Yahoo deal for Verizon is how it recasts who Verizon's rivals are. In an interview with CNBC, AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong named Silicon Valley giants Google and Facebook as his key rivals -- not AT&T or Comcast. But, he said, Verizon will have to find its own path to success.
"Trying to do what Google and Facebook do is not a good strategy," Armstrong said in the interview. "We have to have a differentiated performance.""
Twitter, Grappling with Anemic Growth, Tries to Bolster Its Advertising Business - The New York Times
Tbd if Tim Armstrong has a place in mind for Twitter in Verizon's advertising network...
"On Tuesday, Twitter’s ailing position among its peers was underscored once more when the company reported its worst quarterly revenue growth ever and only a slight increase in users for the second quarter. The company also signaled that its prospects were unlikely to improve in the short term.Twitter, Grappling with Anemic Growth, Tries to Bolster Its Advertising Business - The New York Times
Twitter posted revenue of $602 million for the quarter, up 20 percent from a year ago and below Wall Street estimates of $607 million. Its net loss narrowed to $107 million, or 15 cents a share. Twitter’s users grew 3 percent from a year ago, to 313 million.
Looking ahead, the company projected revenue of $590 million to $610 million for the current quarter, far below analyst estimates of $681 million."
Also see The Very Good News Buried in Apple’s Dismal Results (Time); $7.8B quarterly net income = "dismal" => expect different; also see Apple CEO Cook Explains to Slightly Perplexed Analysts ‘So Many Signs That Are Positive’ (Barron's)
"The number of iPhones sold dropped 15 percent, compared with the same quarter a year ago, and revenue plunged 23 percent. The number of Macs sold fell 11 percent, and the number of iPads fell 9 percent. And sales of the Watch, Apple’s newest product, plunged 55 percent compared with the previous year, according to the research firm IDC, which published its own assessment on Friday since Apple does not break out its smartwatch sales.Apple’s iPhone Sales Drop Again, but Services Are a Bright Spot - The New York Times
Net income was $7.8 billion, or $1.42 a share, down 27 percent.
Apple’s weak results were partly a result of the company’s position at the end of its product cycle. In September, it is expected to announce upgrades to its iPhone hardware and software, which happens every two years. Many Apple customers hold off buying a new phone in the months before a big release so that they can get the newest model."
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Excerpt from a multifaceted reality check
"If the Russians can get into the servers of the White House, the State Department, and the DNC, then it is possible they can retrieve the digital and data infrastructure of the Democratic Party and its allies in organized labor and liberal interest groups. They have now crossed over from simply infiltrating documents and data to exfiltrating documents to shape public opinion and the democratic elections that determine control over the power of the state.No, the DNC Didn’t Rig the Primary in Favor of Hillary | New Republic
Could the Russians wipe out the voter registration rolls in an effort to shape the electorate to benefit Donald Trump? Just last week the Illinois State Board of Elections announced it had been hacked, “most likely from a foreign (international) entity.”
And what about the Democrats’ advantage in data and analytics? It depends upon the integrity and security of the data. What if hackers installed malware that severely damaged NGP-VAN, the system that Democrats use for targeting and contacting voters? In 2012 the Republicans tried to create a similar system; it was a disaster, causing chaos in its get-out-the-vote operation."
Somewhere along the way, the exclamation point was lost
"During the 2000s, Yahoo’s biggest mistakes were failures of will. Semel, billed as a “deals guy” from Hollywood, could have bought Google in 2002, as Fred Vogelstein reported in Wired. Yahoo also came close to buying Facebook in 2006, until Semel lowered his offer from $1 billion to $850 million after a disappointing earnings report, alienating an already reluctant Mark Zuckerberg in the process, according to David Kirkpatrick’s book, The Facebook Effect.What Sank Yahoo? Blame Its Nice Guy Founders - Bloomberg
These acquisitions probably looked like risky, uneconomical moves that Yahoo investors might hate. That’s the whole point. Web companies need the unique power of founders to do unpopular things. Page advocated for Google to buy the money-losing video sharing site YouTube in 2006; Zuckerberg made what seemed like an outrageously overpriced bet on the photo app Instagram in 2012. This is how tech companies survive—the ability to take risks."
Over time, not much will RemainCo
"Other parts of RemainCo are much easier to deal with. The Yahoo Japan stake isn’t subject to as nearly a contentious tax bill as the Alibaba holdings, though for the moment the rump company will hold on to that stake. (The majority owner of Yahoo Japan, SoftBank, has the right of first refusal if RemainCo decides to sell those shares.)For Yahoo, Question Is What to Do With $40 Billion in Leftovers - The New York Times
And Mr. McInerney said that the rump company would return virtually all of the remaining cash and continue to work on selling the patents.
In case investors and analysts did not grasp the message, he added during the call: “We’re not intending to make new investments with the cash out of RemainCo. The intent is to return it.”"
Monday, July 25, 2016
A less augmented reality for Nintendo shareholders; also see Nintendo reminds investors it didn't make Pokemon Go, stock plummets (CNet)
"The stock sank 18 percent to 23,220 yen at the close in Tokyo, the maximum one-day move allowed by the exchange, wiping out 708 billion yen ($6.7 billion) in market value. After debuting in the U.S. earlier this month, Pokemon Go launched in Japan on Friday and became available in Hong Kong on Monday.Nintendo Slumps By Most Since 1990 on Dashed Pokemon Go Hopes - Bloomberg
The correction comes after Pokemon Go’s release almost doubled Nintendo’s stock through Friday’s close, adding $17.6 billion in market capitalization. Nintendo is a shareholder in the game’s developer Niantic Inc. and Pokemon Co., but has an "effective economic stake" of just 13 percent in the app, according to an estimate by Macquarie Securities analyst David Gibson."
In case you were worried Pokémon Go might be headed for near-term meme-bust
"The thing Hanke personally seemed more interested in was making pokéstops a bigger part of the game. He mentioned that pokéstops frequently have lures placed at them, and he thinks it would be interesting to give players other ways to modify a pokéstop's function. "That's a pretty cool idea that you can acquire an object that changes the function of a pokéstop and gives it a new ability," Hanke said. One of those functions might be turning them into healing pokécenters, he said, as Niantic wants to add them to the game in some way.Pokémon Go will eventually add new pokémon and customizable pokéstops | The Verge
Trading and training features are in the works as well. Pokémon breeding is also something Hanke said Niantic has been discussing."
Also see Why Yahoo Sold Itself (NYT) and Why Verizon wants to buy an ailing Yahoo (Washington Post)
"The board of the Silicon Valley company has agreed to sell Yahoo’s core internet operations and land holdings to Verizon Communications for $4.8 billion, according to people briefed on the matter, who were not authorized to speak about the deal before the planned announcement on Monday morning.Yahoo Cuts $4.8 Billion Deal to Sell Core Business to Verizon - The New York Times
After the sale, Yahoo shareholders will be left with about $41 billion in investments in the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, as well as Yahoo Japan and a small portfolio of patents."
Check the full article for details on three recent Google Cloud updates; tangentially, see From Google to the world: the Kubernetes origin story (Google Cloud Platform blog)
"Can faster networks, lower prices and lots of artificial intelligence put Google ahead? Amazon’s lead seems to give it an edge for at least the next couple of years, as its cloud branch has perfected a method of developing hundreds of new cloud features annually. Yet while the company appears to have some basic artificial intelligence features, called machine learning, it seems to have little in the way of speech recognition or translation.Google Races to Catch Up in Cloud Computing - The New York Times
Mr. Lovelock, the Gartner analyst, predicted that Google would offer businesses the insights it has gained from years of watching people online. “Amazon views the customer as the person paying the bill, while Google believes the customer is the end user of a service,” he said. And Microsoft is promoting itself as the company that has products customers already know and use.
“Everyone has to play to the strengths the market already sees they have,” Mr. Lovelock said."
Also see Trump & Putin. Yes, It's Really a Thing (TPM), Donald Trump, the Siberian Candidate (NYT), and Clinton campaign — and some cyber experts — say Russia is behind email release (Washington Post)
"Proving the source of a cyberattack is notoriously difficult. But researchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies, which were the same attackers behind previous Russian cyberoperations at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. And metadata from the released emails suggests that the documents passed through Russian computers. Though a hacker claimed responsibility for giving the emails to WikiLeaks, the same agencies are the prime suspects. Whether the thefts were ordered by Mr. Putin, or just carried out by apparatchiks who thought they might please him, is anyone’s guess."As Democrats Gather, a Russian Subplot Raises Intrigue - The New York Times
Friday, July 22, 2016
Meanwhile, EMC Shareholders Voted to Approve the Multi-Billion Dollar Merger With Dell (Fortune)
"Another day, another report about how cloud computing will upend the way businesses buy and use technology. This time out, market research firm Gartner said $111 billion worth of IT spending will shift to cloud this year, and that number will almost double to $216 billion by 2020.Cloud Computing's Big, Disruptive Multiple-Billion-Dollar Impact - Fortune
The move to cloud computing, which has given traditional hardware and software providers heartburn for years now, will thus become “one of the most disruptive forces of IT spending” since the beginning of the computing era, Gartner analysts said in a new research note."
From an extensive discussion of Facebook's plans for the next ten years
"On the occasion of Aquila’s first successful test flight, Facebook invited me to its headquarters in Menlo Park to meet Zuckerberg and discuss the aircraft, connectivity, and how those efforts will power the next generation of Facebook services. Because while Facebook’s connectivity mission begins by ensuring the entire world has internet access, it doesn’t end there. Zuckerberg believes that you can’t have the best artificial intelligence or virtual reality services until you bring the internet to everyone who doesn’t have it — and dramatically improve the internet for everyone who already does.Facebook 2026
Facebook asked that we keep the discussion to the company’s next 10 years — a fair trade, I thought, for a chance at asking Zuckerberg about far-future versions of Facebook. And so we talked about the obstacles Facebook faces in building internet infrastructure, the role the company hopes to play in developing AR, and why VR is likely to define the next generation of computing. We also talked about Zuckerberg’s year-long effort to build an AI that powers his home, and the trouble with using bots to operate your toaster."
A watchful audience awaits a hardware refresh
"Shipments for Apple's wearable dropped to 1.6 million in the second quarter, from 3.6 million in the same quarter a year ago, IDC reported Thursday. Over the same period, the device's market share sank to 47 percent from 72 percent. Among the top five smartwatch makers, Apple was the only one to experience a decline in year-over-year shipments.Apple Watch rules smartwatch market despite lower shipments - CNET
Apple still managed to stay ahead of arch rival Samsung, which saw its shipments rise last quarter to 600,000, from 400,000 in the prior year's quarter. Samsung's share of the smartwatch market climbed to 16 percent, up from 7 percent. Lenovo scored third place with shipments of 300,000 smartwatches. LG Electronics also had 300,000 shipments and Garmin followed with 100,000."
One topic from an MIT Media Lab conference on Forbidden Research
"Mr. Snowden, who spoke via a video connection from Russia, where he is living in exile, said he was working with Andrew Huang, a computer hacker known as Bunnie who studied electrical engineering at M.I.T., to see if it would be possible to modify a smartphone to alert journalists working in dangerous environments to electronic surveillance.Edward Snowden to Help Develop a Safer Phone for Journalists - The New York Times
Mr. Snowden, who is a board member of a nonprofit group called the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said he was concerned that cellphones and smartphones serve as tracking devices that automatically create electronic dossiers that give third parties, including governments, detailed information on location."
On a related note, see Facebook Takes Flight (The Verge)
"Because of all these benefits, building on Facebook’s proof of concept holds tremendous potential not just for remote areas, but for meeting increased data demand all over the world, said Kamran Kiasaleh, an optical communications scientist at the University of Texas at Dallas who was not involved in the study.Facebook Moves One Step Closer to Light-Based Wireless Communication - The New York Times
The technology fits in with Facebook’s plans to beam internet access down from the skies using drones. With laser transmitters and arrays of these light detectors, drones could exchange data with one another and with ground stations. Indoors, these detectors could provide high data rates to mobile devices."
Thursday, July 21, 2016
In other Google AI news, see New Google AI Services Bring Automation to Customer Service (Bloomberg)
"On launch day, TensorFlow had around 3,000 "stars" on GitHub, meaning that number of programmers had bookmarked the code, indicating interest. As of July 13, it had 27,873. Two other popular AI software projects, Theano and Torch, have less than a fifth of that following. In 2014, Torch was the leader. A Microsoft tool called CNTK, released for free in January, and Amazon’s free DSSTNE, which rolled out in May, have so far failed to dent Google’s lead much.Google Sprints Ahead in AI Building Blocks, Leaving Rivals Wary - Bloomberg
Linux, an open-source operating system launched in 1991, now helps run everything from supercomputers to phones to airplanes and helped turn Red Hat Inc. into a $13 billion enterprise software company. Linux has 33,967 stars on GitHub. "It’s kind of crazy," said Dean, a top Google engineer and one of the main developers of TensorFlow. "We’re almost to Linux level.""
See Master Plan, Part Deux (Tesla blog) for full details
"Mr. Musk, releasing an updated strategy in a blog post on Tesla’s website Wednesday evening, said electric versions of a pickup truck, small sport-utility vehicle, large over-the-road truck and bus-type vehicle are planned over the next several years. Those vehicles are slated to follow the high-price Model S sedan and Model X SUV currently on the road, and the more affordable Model 3 due for launch in 2017.Elon Musk Unveils Plans for New Tesla Vehicle Types - WSJ
The blueprint also includes a plan for customers to share autonomous Teslas, which are equipped with self-driving technology, a move that would challenge ride-sharing firms such as Uber Technologies Inc. By using a mobile app, owners could earn income by opening up their car up for others to use."
An international sensation -- later in the article: "The game is also being put to political purposes. Many users on Twitter shared what purports to be an image of a dead Pikachu amid rubble in Gaza."
"In Saudi Arabia, clerics renewed an existing fatwa against Pokémon, calling it “un-Islamic.”Nations of the World Confront the Pokémon Menace - The New York Times
Bosnia has warned players to avoid chasing the creatures onto land mines left over from the 1990s.
An Egyptian communications official said the game should be banned because sharing photos or videos of security sites could put the sites at risk.
Russian officials sounded similar warnings, saying that “the consequences would be irreversible” if Pokémon players continued unchecked."
Final sentence: "And I’ll know that marketers really understand me when I turn on the TV in an election year and see no political ads at all."
"Data brokers strip out your name, address, and other traditional identifiers before they sell these profiles. But marketers can still match that data against the information they’ve collected from your tracking cookie to create a rich, detailed portrait of your life. So they may not know your name, but through your browsing history, buying habits, and other bread crumbs, they can make a pretty educated guess about which ads to show you.The digital political campaign gets personal - The Boston Globe
The tactics are little different from those used by companies to peddle their products, but their application to American politics dismays Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, an Internet activist group.
“You’re talking about the creation of political dossiers on individuals,” he said. “It’s time the alarm bells sounded.”"
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Also see Melania Trump Trumped by Plagiarism? (Turnitin blog)
"TurnItIn is a subscription service currently in use, the company says, at 12,000 educational institutions around the globe. Founded by Berkeley neuroscientists in the late 1990s, the service compares text against web content, previous submissions, and scholarly journals and magazines to generate an “originality report.” The report highlights text that matches another source.Here’s the software that could have saved Melania Trump from her plagiarism debacle - Recode
As it happens, TurnItIn ran one of its reports on Mrs. Trump’s speech and found several types of plagiarism."
Also see Google has found a business model for its most advanced artificial intelligence (Recode)
"In recent months, the Alphabet Inc. unit put a DeepMind AI system in control of parts of its data centers to reduce power consumption by manipulating computer servers and related equipment like cooling systems. It uses a similar technique to DeepMind software that taught itself to play Atari video games, Hassabis said in an interview at a recent AI conference in New York.Google Cuts Its Giant Electricity Bill With DeepMind-Powered AI - Bloomberg
The system cut power usage in the data centers by several percentage points, "which is a huge saving in terms of cost but, also, great for the environment," he said.
The savings translate into a 15 percent improvement in power usage efficiency, or PUE, Google said in a statement. PUE measures how much electricity Google uses for its computers, versus the supporting infrastructure like cooling systems."
For full details: Earnings Release FY16 Q4 (Microsoft Investor Relations)
"On Tuesday, in its quarterly earnings results, Microsoft offered strong signs that its cloud business was growing quickly. Revenue from Azure, a business Microsoft started to compete in cloud computing with Amazon, the market leader, rose more than 100 percent in the quarter.Microsoft Earnings Are Up, Cushioned by Its Cloud Business - The New York Times
Revenue from Office 365, a subscription version of the old Office software, rose 54 percent from commercial customers and 19 percent from consumers.
“I think they’ve done extraordinarily well,” said Merv Adrian, an analyst at the technology research firm Gartner. “There’s nobody else who is arguably the challenger to Amazon that Microsoft is.”"
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Salesforce will only support Nexus and Samsung Galaxy phones to avoid Android fragmentation - Recode
One way to address Android fragmentation challenges
"“Due to the wide array of available Android devices, we are targeting our support to a select number of Android devices to continue improving our overall Salesforce1 for Android user experience,” the company said in the support document.Salesforce will only support Nexus and Samsung Galaxy phones to avoid Android fragmentation - Recode
If Salesforce’s approach takes hold, it could offer a further boost for Samsung, which already is the market leader in Android devices, especially among business users.
Oculus CTO John Carmack cited a similar rationale, explaining that the virtual reality maker partnered with Samsung on Gear VR to “bypass the development hell of Android.”"
Also see IBM Rises After Sales Beat Estimates on Software Unit Gains (Bloomberg)
"Revenue increased for the first time in a key unit -- cognitive solutions, including its Watson artificial intelligence platform -- that the company has been touting as crucial to future growth. The results may signal that Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty is making good on her promise to shift IBM’s software and services offerings to match customers’ increasing appetite for cloud-based solutions. It’s been an uphill battle. Overall, sales have declined for 17 quarters in a row, while margins have also narrowed.IBM Investors Cheer First Signs of Success for Big Blue Strategy - Bloomberg
International Business Machines Corp.’s results Monday “underscore that the company is beginning to find an inflection point,” said Bill Kreher, an analyst with Edward Jones & Co. “We may begin to see the company grow as a whole as soon as next year.”"
From Yahoo's final earnings report as an independent company; also see Yahoo CEO gamely delivers weak results no one cares about and no news on sale that everyone does (Recode)
"Yahoo said it was writing off an additional $482 million of Tumblr’s purchase price on top of the $230 million write-off it took in the first quarter.Yahoo Revenue Falls 15 Percent and Profit Drops 64 Percent - The New York Times
In the second quarter, Yahoo’s revenue was $1.31 billion, up from $1.24 billion in the same quarter a year ago. But the most recent quarter’s revenue rose only because of a change in how Yahoo accounts for revenue from its search partnership with Microsoft. Excluding those changes, revenue fell 15 percent, and both search ads and display ads posted significant drops.
The company reported a net loss of $440 million, or 46 cents a share, for the quarter, compared with a loss $22 million, or 2 cents a share, in the same quarter a year ago. Excluding the Tumblr write-off and other adjustments, the company’s operating profit fell 64 percent."
Monday, July 18, 2016
Check the full post for additional details including Google's coverage of the conventions this and next week
"Every election matters and every vote counts. The American democracy relies on everyone’s participation in the political process. This November, Americans all across the country will line up at the polls to cast their ballots for the President of the United States. With states’ varied deadlines and methods, the voter registration process can be tricky. So starting on Monday, we're introducing a new tool in Search to simplify the voter registration process to make it easier for you to have your voice heard.Official Google Blog: A voice for everyone in 2016
Now when you search for “register to vote” or similar queries, Google will display a detailed state-by-state guide providing information on how to register, general requirements, and deadlines."
Tbd if this will top playing himself on The Simpsons, as both Bezos and Elon Musk have done
"As anyone who has spent any time using IMDB as a research tool knows, an IMDB listing is not a rock-solid source. But Star Trek producer J.J. Abrams and Star Trek director Justin Lin both confirmed Bezos’ appearance - described as a “single tracking shot that includes his character”, which suggests he doesn’t have a speaking role - to the Associated Press on Friday.Jeff Bezos appears in the new Star Trek movie, playing a “Starfleet Official” - Recode
““He was awesome," Lin said. "It was like a president was visiting, you know? He had a big entourage! But it didn't matter because he was so into it. He had to wait around all day because it was one day we were shooting like three different scenes and, it was also credit to Jeff because ... he just nailed it every time."“"
When will Marissa Mayer leave Yahoo? Along with sale outcome and potentially last earnings report ever, that should become very clear soon. - Recode
Also see When Yahoo Ruled the Valley: Stories of the Original ‘Surfers’ (NYT)
"What is clear though is that Mayer is not calling any of the shots in the final sale, according to numerous sources from both inside and outside the company. Instead, key Yahoo players include board chairman Maynard Webb and director Tom McInerney, as well the company’s platoon of bankers.When will Marissa Mayer leave Yahoo? Along with sale outcome and potentially last earnings report ever, that should become very clear soon. - Recode
“She’s been helpful with questions, but it’s clear they have recused her,” said one bidder, a sentiment that was echoed by many of them. “The Mayer era at Yahoo is pretty much over.”
And it is one that ends with whimper and not a bang."
Perhaps the program should have been called Biometric-Optimized Recruit Grouping
"A new proposal by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence recommends using wearable sensors to monitor the physical and psychological abilities of potential intelligence agents. The program, called Multimodal Objective Sensing to Assess Individuals With Context, or Mosaic, would collect data on a series of predetermined traits for a potential recruit. The information would be analyzed to create in-depth evaluations on whether an individual is a good fit for the agency.Intelligence group wants to use wearables to assess agent recruits - The Washington Post
A job candidate's psychological profile, cognitive abilities, mental "resilience" and productivity are all mentioned as important data points, as well as overall physical health and wellness. The program would use multiple sensors worn by the recruit to capture data from a variety of different real-life situations."
Also see A Lifelong Tinkerer Who’s Taking Robots to the People (NYT)
"Silicon Valley’s financiers and entrepreneurs are digging into artificial intelligence with remarkable exuberance. The region now has at least 19 companies designing self-driving cars and trucks, up from a handful five years ago. There are also more than a half-dozen types of mobile robots, including robotic bellhops and aerial drones, being commercialized.Artificial Intelligence Swarms Silicon Valley on Wings and Wheels - The New York Times
“We saw a slow trickle in investments in robotics, and suddenly, boom — there seem to be a dozen companies securing large investment rounds focusing on specific robotic niches,” said Martin Hitch, chief executive of Bossa Nova, which has a base in San Francisco.
Funding in A.I. start-ups has increased more than fourfold to $681 million in 2015, from $145 million in 2011, according to the market research firm CB Insights. The firm estimates that new investments will reach $1.2 billion this year, up 76 percent from last year."
Another Brexit bonus
"ARM Holdings may not be a household name, but it is likely that one of the company’s chip designs powers your smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. It designs chips and parts of chips that use less power so that they can be used in smaller gadgets. ARM had a market capitalization of about $22 billion as of Friday’s close, and the proposed acquisition represents a 43 percent premium on the company’s closing share price last week.SoftBank Buys ARM, a Mobile Chip Designer, for $32 Billion - The New York Times
Turmoil from last month’s Brexit vote likely made the deal more lucrative for SoftBank. The British pound has weakened since the vote, which makes purchasing British companies like ARM cheaper for companies that deal primarily in other currencies. Compared with this same time in 2015, for example, pound-denominated assets are 30 percent cheaper for buyers holding yen."
Friday, July 15, 2016
Also see T-Mobile is giving away free 'Pokémon Go' data for a year (Engadget), which notes "The Un-carrier is keeping an eye on this massive global phenomenon, and wants to help you get out there and be the very best like no one ever was. Along with your year of free Pokémon data, you can also claim a free Frosty, a free Lyft ride up to $15 and 50% off of certain accessories via T-Mobile, such as battery packs so you can keep the game going long after your battery has succumbed to incessant GPS usage."
"The offer kicks off starting on Tuesday, July 19 as of part of T-Mobile’s existing Tuesday free rewards promotion. The free Pokemon data will be an offer in the special rewards app for the next few weeks. Customers who claim it will be able to play Pokemon Go without having the game’s data usage count against their monthly allowance through the end of August 2017.T-Mobile Giving Pokemon Go Players a Year of Free Data - Fortune
Legere had earlier tweeted that the number of active Pokemon players on T-Mobile’s network had doubled in less than a week and their data usage had quadrupled."
Also see Tesla Won’t Be Able to Put Crash Defense on Autopilot (Bloomberg); meanwhile, Elon Musk notes (on Twitter): "Onboard vehicle logs show Autopilot was turned off in Pennsylvania crash. Moreover, crash would not have occurred if it was on."
"In an unusual move, Consumer Reports has called Tesla's Autopilot "Too Much Autonomy Too Soon" and called on the automaker to disable the hands-free feature until its safety can be improved. The system has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of a fatal May 7 crash in Florida, which U.S. safety regulators are investigating.Tesla Autopilot Too Much, Too Soon, Consumer Reports Warns - Bloomberg
"By marketing their feature as 'Autopilot,' Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security," said Laura MacCleery, vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports, in the article published Thursday."
Pokémon Go developer says ads are coming, and shops are already luring gamers in - The Washington Post
Also see 12 Signs You’re Playing Too Much ‘Pokémon Go’ (WSJ) and Pokémon Go is barely a week old and Hillary Clinton is already using it to register voters (Vox)
"The developer of Pokémon Go said it will soon accept sponsored partnerships to make certain locations appear more prominently in the mobile game that has taken the country by storm.Pokémon Go developer says ads are coming, and shops are already luring gamers in - The Washington Post
The move to make even more money off this juggernaut makes sense given just how popular the game has become. Since its July 6 launch, it has become the biggest mobile game in history, as measured by daily active users. It now has more than Twitter, and people are spending more time on it than on Facebook. And the Wall Street Journal reported that advertising companies have been reaching out to Niantic to figure out how to get their clients in on the game."
For more details, see Our search warrant case: An important decision for people everywhere (The Official Microsoft Blog)
"On Thursday, Microsoft won a surprise victory in one such legal battle against the government over access to data that is stored outside the United States.Microsoft Wins Appeal on Overseas Data Searches - The New York Times
In the case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a lower court’s ruling that Microsoft must turn over email communications for a suspect in a narcotics investigation stored in a Microsoft data center in Dublin. The case had attracted widespread attention in the technology industry and among legal experts because of its potential privacy implications for the growing cloud computing business, with implications for internet email and online storage, among other services."
Excerpt from the letter: "Trump would be a disaster for innovation. His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy — and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth." On a related note, see Facebook says board member Thiel’s GOP convention speech is in ‘his personal capacity’ (Recode), which notes "What next for the once-behind-the-scenes Thiel, who has long operated more quietly than most tech moguls? My guess: A cameo on "Game of Thrones" as foe of the Mother of Dragons!"
"A group of more than 140 tech entrepreneurs and executives published a scathing online letter opposing Mr. Trump’s campaign for the presidency and criticizing the presumptive Republican nominee for his potentially negative effect on innovation. The letter was signed by tech company chief executives like Stewart Butterfield of Slack and Aaron Levie of Box, as well as Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, and Steve Wozniak, an Apple co-founder, among many others.Silicon Valley Writes a Protest Letter Against Trump - The New York Times
The letter specifically targeted some of Mr. Trump’s ideas about how to handle issues typically seen as central to Silicon Valley, including immigration, open communication on the internet and investment in technology infrastructure."
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Donald Trumps' head Silicon Valley cheerleader, Peter Thiel, nabs speaking slot at GOP Convention | VentureBeat | Business | by Chris O'Brien
Providing more inspiration for Silicon Valley writers; also see What’s Peter Thiel going to say at the Republican National Convention? (TechCrunch)
"It hasn’t been easy for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to find fans in Silicon Valley. But one of his few supporters in this global tech hub is investor Peter Thiel, who is being handsomely rewarded with a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention that starts next week.Donald Trumps' head Silicon Valley cheerleader, Peter Thiel, nabs speaking slot at GOP Convention | VentureBeat | Business | by Chris O'Brien
Thiel, the maverick billionaire investor and Facebook board member, is never afraid to cut against the grain. Whether it’s secretly funding a lawsuit to crush Gawker in retaliation for “outing” him as gay or funding floating cities on the ocean to avoid government regulation, the Paypal cofounder proudly walks his own path."
Excerpt from a tour of Facebook's Prineville data center
"Central to every one of these features is machine learning, an AI training technique that’s nearly as old as the field of AI itself. But thanks to the massive data sets now available and recent leaps in computing power, machine learning has become an increasingly effective way to improve this type of software over time. Facebook, like many of its competitors, uses machine learning to train neural networks, which are algorithms inspired by the human brain that draw patterns and pluck probabilistic findings out of complex data sets.Exploring Facebook’s massive, picture-painting AI brain | The Verge
"The first time we trained a single neural net, it took three months," says Ian Buck, Nvidia’s VP of accelerated computing, who works closely with Facebook’s AI and data center teams. After optimizing the training hardware with newer Nvidia GPUs, the time was cut down to one month. With Big Sur using the latest Nvidia hardware, he adds, it’s now less than a single day to train a neural net to perform a task that once required a human being."
"The company also estimates that its software is used in about 90 percent of the content created for Gear VR, a virtual reality platform designed by Samsung and the Facebook-owned Oculus that uses mobile phones as a screen.Unity Technologies, Maker of Pokémon Go Engine, Swells in Value - The New York Times
An even more promising area of growth for Unity in the near term could be augmented reality, which burst into the mainstream in the last week with the release of Pokémon Go.
While Unity declined to comment on its valuation, the company’s chief executive, John Riccitiello, said in a phone interview that the company, which was founded over a decade ago, did not have an immediate need for the money. “On other hand, if we ever need that much money, it’s generally dumb to wait until you need it,” said Mr. Riccitiello, who was previously the chief executive of Electronic Arts, a game publisher."
Gotta catch 'em all; also see Pokemon GO could be next big marketing tool for retailers (Reuters) and Advertisers set for a piece of ‘Pokémon Go’ action (Financial Times)
"“What that means is that people playing the game are going to stop outside your church with their phone and download some goodies. If your church is a gym, they may hang around for quite some time playing there,” Vail wrote. “So, whether you want it or not, you’ve got a lot of young people showing up.”Churches using Pokémon Go to get millenials in pews - The Boston Globe
Vail has recommended churches embrace the sudden influx of “kids and teens ... But also a LOT of millennials” by setting up charging stations for people whose smartphones are running low on battery life; sharing WiFi connections freely; hosting Pokémon-specific events on church property; and changing signs outside to alert players that they’re near a “Poké Stop.”"
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Excerpt from an extensive interview
"Satya is creating a new culture. I don’t think that one can say in two years and X months, a company of 100,000 people has been remade, and the job is done. I do think it is a much more outward-looking culture. It is a more collaborative culture, internally. It is a more mission-focused culture. It’s a more humble culture. Those of us who worked directly with Satya appreciate every day just the incredible breadth of his curiosity, graciousness of personality. Focus always a moving forward in a constructive way, and I think this integral sense of humility. As I’ve said, humility serves people well. We don’t think about that as often as we probably should. It’s a great strength if we nurture it. It’s not, I agree, what one thought of first 20 years ago, in the middle of the antitrust battle, but we’ve learned. I think we’ve all learned."Brad Smith, President Microsoft: The Full Shift Dialogs Transcript — NewCo Shift
Also see Google’s Project Fi Is One Step Closer to Unifying the World’s Wireless Networks (Wired)
"When you’re traveling abroad, your phone is an essential tool – for finding a great restaurant, posting pics of your trip online, or translating a sign. But the data we have access to when traveling abroad often isn’t fast or affordable enough to let us do the tasks that matter most. Which could be why only 20% of Americans opt to use their cellular data when traveling internationally,1 instead choosing to jump between Wi-Fi hotspots or scramble for a local SIM card.Official Android Blog: Stay connected abroad with high speed data from Project Fi
Starting today, all Project Fi subscribers have access to high speed data in 135+ destinations. With the addition of Three to the Project Fi network, we’re now able to deliver speeds 10-20X faster than before. And, just as before, there are no extra fees for using data internationally – you pay the same $10/GB that you do at home."
Also see The Kifi Team is joining Google (Kifi on Medium)
"Google has made another small acquisition to help it continue building out its latest efforts in social apps. The search and Android giant has hired the team behind Kifi, a startup that was building extensions to collect and search links shared in social apps, as well as provide recommendations for further links — such as this tool, Kifi for Twitter. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, but, according to Google engineering director Eddie Kessler, the app’s team will be joining the company to work on Spaces, Google’s group chat app.Google aqui-hires deep search engine Kifi to enhance its Spaces group chat app | TechCrunch
Google tells me it is not commenting on the exact number of people joining.
It looks like Spaces could use the help. The app launched earlier this year and has had a very lukewarm run in the market so far, currently lingering around 577 in the U.S. iOS App Store and 284 in the U.S. Android store, according to stats from App Annie."
Googleplex 2.0 lives
"From Google, LinkedIn is picking up seven buildings, a plan it said will consolidate its staff around its Sunnyvale and Mountain View Calif., offices. The company said the deal is unrelated to its recent Microsoft acquisition.Google just scored a bunch of new property to make its crazy dream campus come true - Recode
In return, Google is getting LinkedIn’s Mountain View headquarters office and — far more critical for the internet giant — four different surrounding properties that enable Google to follow through on its ambitious plan for a new, green, crazy-futurist campus.
The Silicon Valley Business Journal has all the deal’s details, if you’re inclined."
"Capturing these little monsters isn’t just good for players. In just a few days since its July 6 launch, the game has become a national sensation, nearly overtaking Twitter in daily active users. It currently ranks as the most profitable game on Google and Apple’s app stores. On Monday, Nintendo’s stock jumped 25 percent. On Tuesday, it rose another 13 percent.What is really behind the Pokémon Go craze - The Washington Post
The game is perhaps the first real success story of the use of augmented reality technology, which blends the digital and real world together. The combined effect is part bird-watching, part geocaching, part trophy-hunting, with a heavy dose of mid-1990s nostalgia.
All that success means Pokémon Go won’t be the last of these types of games."
Time for game augmentation-free zone standards; later in the article: "Pokémon have also appeared on the front lines of the fight against ISIS in Iraq, and the Marine Corps joked on Twitter that one had been spotted on a gun range, prompting some protest (and plenty of support)."
"Are there places where Pokémon should not be allowed to tread?Where Pokémon Should Not Go - The New York Times
The digital creatures, which appear overlaid on the real world as part of the hit smartphone game Pokémon Go, have been reported at the former concentration camp Auschwitz in Poland, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. and the National September 11 Memorial in New York, provoking frustrated responses from the representatives of some of the sites."
Also see Musk Energy Plan Delivers Slow Payoff in Tesla, SolarCity Merger (Bloomberg)
"Adam Jonas, who analyzes the electric carmaker for Morgan Stanley, sent out a note to clients this morning speculating on Musk's blueprint. According to Jonas, the so-called master plan might entail a system that owes more to public transport than the company's present model of vehicle ownership.Tesla's Biggest Wall Street Fan Thinks He's Worked Out Musk's Master Plan - Bloomberg
"We believe the missing piece could be an on-demand mobility service that complements Tesla’s skills in electric and autonomous vehicles," Jonas wrote. The analyst says that just selling cars to individuals won't remain a sustainable business model forever: "The auto industry is in the early metamorphosis from privately-owned model to a public transport utility," he says."
A time for big decisions
"The newspaper industry views Facebook with a mix of excitement and trepidation. While the site has proven to be a source of new readers, publishers don’t want to grow too dependent on it. That’s especially true for the Journal, which has counted on online subscriptions for growth, not giving articles away for free.Facebook Omnipresence Makes Murdoch’s Journal Wary of Close Ties - Bloomberg
At stake are the 1.6 billion Facebook users whose attention News Corp. and other publishers are attempting to grab. About 63 percent of the Journal’s global desktop social-media visitors come from Facebook -- not as much as the traffic online-only competitors like BuzzFeed get, but enough to make News Corp. take Facebook seriously despite its concerns."
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
I think it's safe to assume 1) Facebook finds Office more productive than Google Apps, 2) there will be useful integration between Office apps and Facebook at Work, and 3) Facebook didn't pay full SRP for its Office 365 subscription...
"Facebook Inc. has signed a deal to use Microsoft Corp.’s online email and other software, even as it develops its own workplace communication and collaboration service.Facebook Taps Office 365 While Developing Own Workplace Service - WSJ
On Tuesday, Facebook will announce plans to use Microsoft’s Office 365, the web-based version of the software giant’s suite of workplace productivity programs. Facebook previously used the on-premises versions.
The social network’s 13,000 employees will tap some portions of Office 365, including its email and calendar. But they won’t have access to Yammer, Microsoft’s workplace social network, or Skype for Business, for messaging and videoconferencing, which directly compete with Facebook’s own services."
Also see The CEO behind 'Pokémon Go' explains why it's become such a phenomenon (Business Insider)
"Of course, it’s important to bear in mind that we’re just talking about a smartphone game. Given the very finicky and quickly changing tastes of mobile gamers, Pokemon Go may not even make it as a historical footnote for this year. Still, it has the feel of being something that will have a somewhat longer-lasting impact, particularly because of the manner in which it’s introducing people to a new concept.Pokemon Go is an AR Watershed | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
It’s easy to forget how difficult it is for critical tech breakthroughs to reach mainstream acceptance. But the simple, silly experience of capturing Pokemon through the compute and sensor-equipped devices we all carry—our smartphones—is going to introduce an enormous number of people to a completely different way of thinking about how tech devices can change (and improve) the manner in which they interact with the world around them. In my mind, that’s an important step forward."
A "gig economy" reality check
"Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service is a low-cost method of outsourcing work that computers can’t do quite yet.Amazon’s Mechanical Turkers are college-educated millennials making less than minimum wage - Recode
Or as a Gizmodo writer smartly put it, “It's a job board where the pay is low and the jobs are dumb.” If you need something transcribed, documents sorted or another menial task performed, Mechanical Turk is the place to go. And according to new research from the Pew Center, the people around the world doing this “dumb” work are a lot more overqualified than you might think.
Data collected by Pew from February of this year say that 51 percent of Mechanical Turkers have a college degree, compared with 36 percent of the adult U.S. workforce. Additionally, 52 percent of Turkers make less than $5 per hour on a job (the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour), and 39 percent earn between $5 per hour and $7.99 per hour."
In other cycling news, see Bike Company Switches Gears in Road Shifting, Going Wireless (NYT)
"“Strava is crack for cyclists,” said João Correia, an agent who represents several pro cyclists, including some Strava users. “It really changed how people ride their bikes. You can compete anytime. You didn’t need a number on your back, and you don’t have to be a specific place at a specific time.”Driven by Data, Pros and Joes Alike Vie for Cycling Crowns - The New York Times
Correia said that for his clients like the Dutch rider Laurens ten Dam, Strava was also a far more effective way to build links with fans than conventional social media like Twitter or Facebook."
"As you may have suspected, your car is spying on you. Fire up a new model and it updates more than 100,000 data points, including rather personal details like the front-seat passenger’s weight. The navigation system tracks every mile and remembers your route to work. The vehicular brain is smart enough to help avoid traffic jams or score parking spaces, and soon will be able to log not only your itineraries but your internet shopping patterns.Your Car’s Been Studying You Closely and Everyone Wants the Data - Bloomberg
The connected car will be a wonderful convenience or an intrusive nightmare, depending on your tolerance. For automakers, it could be a gold mine, which is why the industry is building firewalls to keep the likes of Google Inc. and Apple Inc. at bay -- and hoping to pry you away from their phones and apps when you’re motoring."
Also see Amazon's CTO just ripped whoever's behind the 'Pokémon Go' problems (Business Insider) and A Beginner's Guide to Pokemon GO (Bloomberg)
"Pokémon Go, though, is actually the work of a start-up, Niantic Inc., which was created inside Google and spun out of the company last year. Niantic’s first game, a science-fiction conspiracy thriller called Ingress, was made possible by Google’s digital mapping service. About 15 million users have downloaded Ingress, and there are a little over one million active players a month, said John Hanke, Niantic’s chief executive.Pokémon Go Brings Augmented Reality to a Mass Audience - The New York Times
Niantic partnered with the Pokémon Company to make Pokémon Go. Mr. Hanke said he didn’t have exact numbers of Pokémon Go players, but that it was safe to say it will be “quite a bit beyond” the number of players Ingress has attracted. Downloads of Pokémon Go have been so frequent that Niantic’s servers had trouble handling the traffic and the company is struggling to add additional capacity. Mr. Hanke said Niantic was delaying the game’s introduction in additional countries for a few days so it could handle the demand."
Monday, July 11, 2016
Also see Missed the ‘Mr. Robot’ Season 2 Sneak? You’re Not Alone (The Wrap)
"The U.S. television network USA had the mother of all surprises in stock for fans of its award-winning TV show Mr. Robot. Completely unannounced, the network released the first 40-odd minutes of the first episode of its second series on social media in the middle of a Facebook Q&A. The preview was released about an hour ago – a full three days before it was scheduled to air on television."USA just dropped Mr. Robot’s season 2 premiere on social media | TechCrunch
See Internet AWACS for more details
"Using IBM's Watson AI, the tool not only examines large collections of tweets but — somewhat eerily — also can go through a single user's timeline and, with Watson's machine learning technology, offer an analysis of that user's "trustworthiness, propensity toward violence [and] openness," the Jester said. That information, he said, could hold clues to a criminal's intentions.
The hacker likens his tool to the future-seeing "precogs" from "Minority Report."
If the Jester's name sounds familiar, that's because the hacker has appeared elsewhere — on Time's list of most influential Internet personalities, on CNN and, according to a recent blog post, on an upcoming episode of USA's "Mr. Robot." He has used his hacking skills to bring down dozens of websites that he says helped spread Islamic extremism. What he does technically may not be legal, CNN reports, but law enforcement officials have largely turned a blind eye to his independent activities."How artificial intelligence could help warn us of another Dallas - The Washington Post
Final paragraphs from a timely Margaret Sullivan social media reality check
"Yes, social media platforms are businesses. They have no obligation to call their offerings “news” or to depict their judgments as editorial decisions. They are free to describe their missions as providing a global town square or creating a more connected globe.Face it, Facebook. You’re in the news business. - The Washington Post
But given their extraordinary influence, they do have an obligation to grapple, as transparently as possible, with extraordinary responsibility."
Also see Police: Pokemon Go has been used to target armed-robbery victims (The Washington Post), Pokemon Go Hit Underscores Nintendo’s Potential in Mobile Gaming (Bloomberg), and What is Pokémon Go and why is everybody talking about it? (Recode)
"People are really getting into Pokemon Go, a new mobile take on the classic franchise. In fact, they’re maybe getting a little too into it.Pokemon Go’s unexpected side effect: injuries - The Washington Post
The game, made by Niantic and the Pokemon Company, was released late on July 6, and allows players to capture Pokemon in real-world locations. The app makes the little monsters appear on your smartphone screen, through the camera, as you walk through your neighborhood -- making it seem as if they are right in front of you. The game quickly shot to the top of the charts for Apple’s free apps and has gathered at least 100,000 downloads on Google’s Play store. It also quickly led to an unexpected side effect: a number of reported Pokemon-related injuries."
Sunday, July 10, 2016
"“We wanted it to be iconic, a structure that would be similar to another icon in the city, like the Space Needle, for newcomers to Seattle,” said John Schoettler, director of Amazon’s global real estate and facilities. “It would be a found treasure in the downtown neighborhood.”Forget Beanbag Chairs. Amazon Is Giving Its Workers Treehouses. - The New York Times
The real point of the spheres is how Amazon wants to use the nature on the inside to inspire employees. When they open in early 2018, the spheres will be packed with a plant collection worthy of top-notch conservatories, allowing Amazon employees to amble through tree canopies three stories off the ground, meet with colleagues in rooms with walls made from vines and eat kale Caesar salads next to an indoor creek."
Friday, July 08, 2016
Behold "'post-quantum' crypto;" see Experimenting with Post-Quantum Cryptography (Google Security Blog) for details
"For anyone who cares about Internet security and encryption, the advent of practical quantum computing looms like the Y2K bug in the 1990s, a countdown to an unpredictable event that might just break everything. The concern: hackers and intelligence agencies could use advanced quantum attacks to crack current encryption techniques and learn, well, anything they want. Now Google is starting the slow, hard work of preparing for that future, beginning with a web browser designed to keep your secrets even when they’re attacked by a quantum computer more powerful than any the world has seen."Google Tests New Crypto in Chrome to Fend Off Quantum Attacks | WIRED
The Fourth Estate goes social and mobile
"Most people in the U.S. read news from their phones and of those on Facebook, more than two-thirds use it for news, according to new data from Pew Research.Facebook is the social network for news - Recode
The rest of the report painted a fairly bleak picture of the state of news media today:
- Young people read less news than old people. Those who do read news get that news online much more frequently than old people who also read news.
- More people get news from their phones than they used to — 72 percent of American adults in 2016 versus 54 percent in 2013.
- The majority of Americans — roughly 75 percent — think news organizations are biased.
- Facebook is still the dominant social platform when it comes to news consumption."
An electrifying trend, although currently limited by range and cost
"Electric motorcycles cost more than a similarly configured gasoline counterpart—mainly because of the high price of batteries. And many manufacturers limit the top speed of these machines to around 100 mph (still plenty of speed) to preserve the motor and extend battery life. (Electric motorcycles consume far more current at sustained high speeds than they do in stop-and-go city riding.)Electric Motorcycles: As Fast and Furious as Gas-Powered Bikes? - WSJ
But these machines are also less work to maintain than gas-guzzlers: No oil changes, valve adjustments or other messy routine maintenance. To refuel, just plug into a household outlet. And because most battery-powered bikes don’t have transmissions, you needn’t worry about shifting gears while riding."
Later in the article: “It’s pretty obvious there’s an audience for it, to us at least.” Also see Amazon Wants People to Pay for Podcasts (Bloomberg)
"Amazon hopes to persuade people to pay for something they have traditionally enjoyed free: short-form audio.Amazon’s Audible Goes Long on Short-Form Audio - The New York Times
Audible, Amazon’s audiobook and spoken-word subsidiary, on Thursday announced Channels, a subscription service that will offer a new library of audio, including original programs, articles read aloud and more. At $4.95 a month, it presents a lower-priced entry point to the service and significantly expands on Audible’s core audiobook offering, while giving listeners more incentive to stick with the company."
Thursday, July 07, 2016
It's going to be fascinating to see how Facebook at Work plays out relative to revitalized Google and Microsoft communication/collaboration portfolios
""By adopting Facebook at Work, we are meaningfully integrating social networking behaviour of our employees to share information and encourage cross functional and cross border discussion and collaboration. This is part of our digital journey and uses social media as a productivity tool," said Sharad Mehrotra, chief executive officer, Telenor (India).75% Telenor India employees engage on ‘Facebook at Work’ | ET Telecom
Telenor India has moved most of its employee engagement and communication to Facebook at Work. It can be used to spread awareness around hot topics and update employees on company activities."
Later in the post: "In particular, the team says the most popular are stories involving two sequential man-in-hole arcs and a Cinderella arc followed by a tragedy."
"Reagan and co do this by analyzing the emotional polarity of “word windows” and sliding these windows through the text to build up a picture of how the emotional valence changes. They performed this task on over 1,700 English works of fiction that had each been downloaded from the Project Gutenberg website more than 150 times.Data Mining Novels Reveals the Six Basic Emotional Arcs of Storytelling
Finally, they used a variety of data-mining techniques to tease apart the different emotional arcs present in these stories.
The results make for interesting reading. Reagan and co say that their data mining techniques all point to the existence of six basic emotional arcs that form the building blocks of more complex stories. They are also able to identify the stories that are the best examples of each arc."
See Introducing OpenCellular: An open source wireless access platform (Facebook Code) for details
"Facebook is clearly very serious about its mission to connect the world and in the process, it has launched solar-powered drones that use lasers to connect to each other and the ground, and more prosaic efforts like new antennas for covering both urban and rural areas. Today, Facebook is expanding this work with the launch of OpenCellular, a new open source hardware and software project that aims to bring a more affordable wireless access platform to remote areas.Facebook’s OpenCellular is a new open-source wireless access platform for remote areas | TechCrunch
“One of the reasons the expansion of cellular networks has stalled is that the ecosystem is constrained,” Facebook engineer Kashif Ali writes. “Traditional cellular infrastructure can be very expensive, making it difficult for operators to deploy it everywhere and for smaller organizations or individuals to solve hyperlocal connectivity challenges. It’s often unaffordable for them to attempt to extend network access in both rural and developed communities.”"
Now optionally ephemeral
"In a major shift, the mobile app has added a new section that will let people hold on to media they choose to save -- a move that will keep users tied to Snapchat as a place to reminisce on important moments in their lives, not just share what’s happening now.Snapchat Adds ‘Memories’ Section to Let Users Save Stories - Bloomberg
It’s called the Memories feature, where snaps and snap stories -- the ongoing stream of content from a user -- can be saved and searched for, the Los Angeles-based company said. People can then share the stories through personal messages, re-edit the snaps to add different captions and graphics, or put them in a separate password-protected folder. Previously, the app’s distinguishing feature was that photo and video messages would disappear after they were viewed."
"Facebook Inc. nabbed a top Tesla Motors Inc. executive to work at its new Building 8 research lab, another major hire for the group tasked with fast-paced development of hardware products.Facebook Hires Tesla’s Rich Heley for Building 8 Innovation Lab - Bloomberg
Rich Heley, who was most recently vice president of product technology at Tesla, will report to Regina Dugan, a former Google executive whom Facebook hired in April to lead Building 8. A Facebook representative confirmed Heley’s hire, declining to give additional details."
Check this Microsoft blog post for details
"Microsoft Corp. is revamping its software applications that help business manage tasks such accounting, human resources and customer management, grouping them together in a unified cloud product that will sort and analyze customer information more seamlessly.Microsoft Ups Salesforce, Oracle Rivalry With New Cloud Product - Bloomberg
The new Dynamics 365 combines disparate products to let customers choose what apps they need for functions such as finance, field service, sales, operations, marketing and customer service, said Takeshi Numoto, who oversees marketing for Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise business. The cloud services will include data analysis and visualization tools from Microsoft’s Power BI and tools from Cortana to predict things like which items and services a customer will need."