"Salesforce has named Bret Taylor, the former chief technology officer at Facebook and founder of Quip, as president and chief product officer.Salesforce appoints Bret Taylor as chief product officer | TechCrunch
Taylor first joined Salesforce in 2016, when Salesforce acquired word processing app Quip for $750 million. Now, Taylor is replacing Alex Dayon as the company’s CPO and Dayon is moving into the role of chief strategy officer.
As chief product officer, Taylor will be tasked with leading Salesforce’s product vision, design, development and launches."
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
For some recent Quip news see Documents with Superpowers — Introducing Live Apps for Quip (Quip blog)
Paying to be taken for a ride
"Hackers stole the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers from Uber Technologies Inc., a massive breach that the company concealed for more than a year. This week, the ride-hailing firm ousted its chief security officer and one of his deputies for their roles in keeping the hack under wraps, which included a $100,000 payment to the attackers.Uber Paid Hackers to Delete Stolen Data on 57 Million People - Bloomberg
Compromised data from the October 2016 attack included names, email addresses and phone numbers of 50 million Uber riders around the world, the company told Bloomberg on Tuesday. The personal information of about 7 million drivers was accessed as well, including some 600,000 U.S. driver’s license numbers. No Social Security numbers, credit card information, trip location details or other data were taken, Uber said."
Not a bad year, so far
Which tech companies beat Facebook, Amazon and Netflix on the markets? - Recode
"Square’s stock price grew 232 percent since the start of this year, according to data from FactSet, making it one of the best performing major U.S. tech stock this year. Of course, Square is a much smaller company than other FAANG members, so growth is easier.
But Chinese companies Tencent and Alibaba are just as big and more than doubled this year at 121 and 101 percent growth respectively. Video game chipmaker Nvidia rose 101 percent this year while PayPal rose 93 percent. Salesforce inched above the FAANG stocks as well."
Which tech companies beat Facebook, Amazon and Netflix on the markets? - Recode
Looks like RT and Sputnik will have to shift more investment to Twitter
"The Russian telecom regulator said Tuesday that it will retaliate against Google if the search giant lowers the search ranking of the Kremlin-backed news outlets RT and Sputnik, escalating a tense back and forth over Russian news coverage that has entangled American news bureaus abroad and could lead Moscow to enact further censorship rules.Google is getting pulled into a fight with Russia over RT and Sputnik - The Washington Post
The agency’s remarks come after Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google's parent company, Alphabet, said that the company would de-rank the two Russian media outlets in its search results. Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum over the weekend, Schmidt said Google is working to curb misleading and exploitative content, as well as material that is likely to have been “weaponized” for nefarious purposes."
So pretty much "mission accomplished..."
"In a brief interview on Tuesday, Ms. Whitman said it had been a “privilege” to lead Hewlett-Packard through the challenges of recent years. The two companies that emerged, she said, are leaner, more innovative and healthy competitors in the modern technology industry. “I’m really proud of that,” Ms. Whitman said.Meg Whitman to Step Down as Hewlett Packard Enterprise C.E.O. - The New York Times
Her plans, she said, are not yet set. Ms. Whitman said she would take time off and go skiing, and she is the incoming chairwoman of Teach for America. Other than that, Ms. Whitman said, “I don’t know.”
She added: “I’ve been working straight for 35 years. I’m going to enjoy some downtime.”"
Trusting "the invisible hand" rather than voters in oligopoly (and regional monopoly) markets; also see An Open Letter to the FCC from New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman detailing fraudulent identities used in the FCC's notice and comment process
"Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University who is credited with coining the phrase “net neutrality,” said the repeal plan not only rolls back the Obama-era rules, it goes further. It specifically permits broadband carriers to block media content, Mr. Wu said, an added power which was not the case during the administration of George W. Bush.
“An allowance of blocking is really pretty shocking.” Mr. Wu said in an email.Net Neutrality Repeal: What Could Happen and How It Could Affect You - The New York Times
Yet if government is in retreat, then consumers are left to trust the behavior of the internet-access companies like Charter and AT&T. In their filings with the F.C.C., the companies have claimed that faith would be well founded. Market incentives, Charter told the F.C.C., push the companies to provide the best service to its customers, catering to consumer demand."
From a timely Twitter reality check
"As I’ve argued before, Twitter has become the small bowel of the American news landscape — the place where the narratives you see on prime-time cable are first digested and readied for wider consumption. It’s no accident that it is President Trump’s social network of choice. And it’s also no accident that foreign powers are attracted to Twitter. According to its recent congressional testimony, Twitter was a primary target of Russian trolls who sought to influence last year’s presidential election; collectively, trolls created millions of election-related tweets, according to the company, some of which were widely cited across the media.Twitter, It’s Time to End Your Anything-Goes Paradise - The New York Times
It is precisely because of Twitter’s wider social importance that even nonusers should demand fixes to how it works. Besides the propaganda problem, at the moment — as Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and chief executive, recently acknowledged — Twitter is a hostile place for women, minorities and many others, who are routinely barraged by threats and hate speech."
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Don't Go there...
"Last week, a curious update to Google’s GitHub repository showed that the company had forked Swift, a programming language created by Apple for building iOS/macOS/tvOS/watchOS apps. We previously heard that the idea was for the company to contribute to the open-source language’s base, as well for Google to use it to create internal tools for iPhones and iPads. But there’s more.Apple's Swift language finds its way into Google's secret Fuchsia OS
Android Police noted that some of the most recent code commits made to Google’s Swift repository show that the company is working on building support for it in its own Fuchsia OS."
All the news that's fit to tweet
"Why it matters: The investment is a part of a major digital push by the company to stay competitive in an era where Google and Facebook have tightened their grip on the digital advertising market.Scoop: Bloomberg expects eight figures for new Twitter network - Axios
The details: Bloomberg is hiring around 50 people to staff the new project, which will exist as the first 24-hour social news network on Twitter.
"In this age of the Google/Facebook duopoly, a relentless focus on invention and innovation is the only way to succeed," says Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith. "The fruits of disruption don't and shouldn't only belong to the dominant tech (aka "Media") platforms.""
From an extensive Facebook community reality check
"“To keep our society moving forward, we have a generational challenge—to not only create new jobs, but create a renewed sense of purpose,” Zuckerberg said at the Harvard commencement.The Education of Mark Zuckerberg - The Atlantic
We’ll never know what they saw in those 100 million people who were in “meaningful communities.” (We asked Facebook and did not receive a reply.) But we can say that it was powerful enough to pivot the whole company, hybridizing with Zuckerberg’s preexisting ideas about the global community and the database of people.
And now, with the same move fast, know little attitude, they’ve built a road map to give people community, meaning, and purpose. Why these guys? Why this company? Why Mark Zuckerberg?"
If a super-intelligent "god" does appear sometime soon, it probably won't appreciate this scam
"I called Edward Zelinsky, a professor at Cardozo Law School and the author of Taxing the Church, to gauge how seriously we should take Levandowski’s new faith. To my surprise, Zelinsky said there was no reason to assume the would-be prophet is just after profit. While Way of the Future will enjoy a handful of tax benefits (no IRS audits, etc.) as a religious not-for-profit, Zelinsky said the modest advantages aren’t worth having to tell friends or jurors that your god is a bot. “If it is a strategy, it isn’t a very good one,” he said.Silicon Valley’s New Religion Is About As Serious As You’d Think - Bloomberg
The designation could be more valuable in the unlikely event that Levandowski is charged criminally for the alleged trade secrets theft. Judges often order people convicted of computer crimes to refrain from using computers as a condition of their probation or parole, but that punishment would be hard to contemplate for the high priest of computer worship. As farfetched as this sounds, it might work, says Daniel Hemel, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. “Sincerely held but wacky beliefs still warrant protection,” Hemel says."
Perhaps the new cloud will be idiot developer-proof
"The announcement comes at a time when Amazon’s business and government customers are under intense scrutiny over whether they are storing data securely in the cloud. Amazon’s cloud-based folders – referred to as “buckets” – have been at the center of several high-profile security incidents in recent months, in which customers inadvertently left sensitive information on an Amazon server in an unprotected format.Amazon launches new cloud storage service for U.S. spy agencies - The Washington Post
In late May a cybersecurity researcher found that a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor working at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency had left sensitive government information online in an AWS bucket without password protection. Booz Allen Hamilton said at the time that one of its own employees was at fault for making the information public.
A month later the same researcher found a similar leak at the Republican National Committee had left millions of voters’ personal information freely available online, also in an Amazon cloud bucket. A third incident involving the Defense Department was reported by CNN on Friday."
Operation Undo Obama continues...
"Ajit Pai, the chairman of the F.C.C., plans to reveal a sweeping proposal to scrap the net neutrality rules on Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details are not public. The rules, created during the Obama administration, prohibit broadband providers from blocking, slowing down or charging more for the delivery of certain internet content. The proposal will be presented in a December meeting of F.C.C. commissioners and is expected to pass in a 3-to-2 vote along party lines.F.C.C. Is Said to Plan Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules - The New York Times
A rollback of net neutrality regulations would represent a significant victory for broadband and telecom companies like AT&T and Comcast and would amount to a strike against consumers. When the rules were passed in 2015, they underlined the importance of high-speed internet to the lives of Americans and the need to more strongly regulate the communications service like a utility, as essential as electricity and the telephone."
Monday, November 20, 2017
Also see Germany bans kids’ smartwatches that can be used for eavesdropping (TechCrunch)
"Germany’s telecoms regulator has banned the sale of “smart watches” that can be used by parents to check on their children, saying the devices violated Germany’s strict surveillance laws.Germany bans children's 'smart' watches over surveillance concerns | Technology | The Guardian
The Federal Network Agency said it had already taken action against several firms that sell the watches online but did not name them.
It urged parents to destroy the watches, which are widely available on the German market and target children between the ages of 5 to 12."
For more details on the Lotus Notes connections, see The History of Notes and Domino (IBM [PDF])
"Some of the most popular pieces of software ever made, including Lotus Notes and Microsoft Flight Simulator, share a direct lineage with the applications produced by students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and other nearby universities more than 40 years ago. Many more, such as Reddit, Twitter, and AOL, carry clear inspiration, whether their creators know it or not. And this platform generated some of the earliest examples of digital culture, including emoticons and interactive storytelling.The Greatest Computer Network You’ve Never Heard Of - Motherboard
Brian Dear, a onetime PLATO user at the University of Delaware, has spent roughly two decades gathering up every scrap of information available about the system for his new book, The Friendly Orange Glow (Pantheon, $40), released this week."
For another perspective, see Google Pixel Buds review: the future shouldn't be this awkward (The Verge)
""Wait for the second generation" is common practice for any nitpicky nerd, but in the Buds' case, we have to wonder whether we'll have to wait for a third generation pair of earbuds. This one just doesn't feel like it was tested enough in the real world, and playing catch-up to the above complaints may still result in a product that feels first-gen.Pixel Buds review: OK Google, go back to the earbud drawing board | Ars Technica
In the meantime, it's time to start the betting pool for when Google drops the price on these to something that matches their current value and performance."
Later in the article: "'Silicon Valley is kind of crazy now,' Mr. Kvamme said."
"The rationale for investing in the Midwest combines cost and opportunity. A top-flight software engineer who is paid $100,000 a year in the Midwest might well command $200,000 or more in the Bay Area. The Midwest, the optimists say, also has ample tech talent, with excellent engineers coming out of major state and private universities in the region.As Silicon Valley Gets ‘Crazy,’ Midwest Beckons Tech Investors - The New York Times
But they also point to technology shifts. As technology transforms nontech industries like health care, agriculture, transportation, finance and manufacturing, the Midwest investors argue that being close to customers will be more important than being close to the wellspring of technology."
Friday, November 17, 2017
Check the full post for more digital disruption dynamics
"The economic strains of technology on the entire media landscape are intensifying. Weeks after Google and Facebook announced record earnings, some of the biggest players in the digital media industry are still struggling to hit revenue projections, make profit or grow.Digital media struggles to survive technology's chokehold - Axios
Why it matters: Rapid consolidation in every sector, but especially digital, shows how difficult it is for media companies to survive in an attention economy dominated by tech platforms. Tech giants, aided by decades of minimal regulation, have scaled to the point at which they are able to adjust their advertising models and adapt to consumer demands faster than most media companies can keep up with."
The future looks bright ahead
"A new study by Gary King of Harvard University, Jennifer Pan of Stanford University, and Margaret Roberts of the University of California San Diego suggests that China is the leading innovator on this front. Their paper, titled “How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, Not Engaged Argument,” shows how Beijing, with the help of a massive army of government-backed internet commentators, floods the web in China with pro-regime propaganda.China is perfecting a new method for suppressing dissent on the internet - Vox
What’s different about China’s approach is the content of the propaganda. The government doesn’t refute critics or defend policies; instead, it overwhelms the population with positive news (what the researchers call “cheerleading” content) in order to eclipse bad news and divert attention away from actual problems."
Coincidentally, Comcast Said to Be in Talks to Buy 21st Century Fox Assets (NYT)
"Federal regulators rolled back decades-old rules on Thursday, making it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold — potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by a handful of companies.The FCC just repealed a 42-year-old rule blocking broadcast media mergers - The Washington Post
The regulations, eliminated in a 3-to-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission, were first put in place in the 1970s to ensure that a diversity of voices and opinions could be heard on the air or in print. But now those rules represent a threat to small outlets that are struggling to survive in a vastly different media world, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. With the rise of blogs, websites and podcasts, Pai said, traditional media outlets now face more competition than ever — and rules that once enforced a diversity of viewpoints are no longer needed."
Featuring "'thermonuclear explosion-proof glass' in the windshield;" also see Tesla Unveils an Electric Rival to Semi Trucks (NYT)
"Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s first electric semi-truck on Thursday evening at an event in Los Angeles that also included the surprise reveal of a new Tesla sports car.
The new Roadster, which has the same name as the first electric vehicle produced by Tesla from 2008 to 2012, emerged from the back of one of the trucks at the end of a presentation that focused largely on the economic and performance needs of truck drivers.
“The point of doing this is just to give a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars,” Musk said. “Driving a gasoline sports car is going to feel like a steam engine with a side of quiche.”"Elon Musk unveils Tesla electric truck – and a surprise new sports car | Technology | The Guardian
Check the full post for more Gobo details and The Case for a Taxpayer-Supported Version of Facebook for some broader context-setting (thanks to Dan Gillmor for the reference)
"Why don’t social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter give users powerful tools to filter their own feeds? Right now, the algorithms control what we see, but we can’t control them. As the internet maxim goes, “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”. Both Twitter and Facebook offer powerful filtering tools that allow advertisers to target exactly who they want their ads to reach. You can pay money and advertise to women of color between 40-60 in Seattle, but you can’t choose to read perspectives from those women. While we’ve seen great innovation from projects like BlockTogether, which lets users who experience harassment share Twitter blocklists, we’ve seen surprisingly little innovation on user-controllable filters from the platforms themselves. And unless we see something like public-service social media platforms, it’s unlikely that we will see platforms give users much more control over what they see.Who Filters Your News? Why we built gobo.social | … My heart’s in Accra
Algorithmic filters optimize platforms for user retention and engagement, keeping our eyes firmly on the site so that our attention can be sold to advertisers. We thought it was time that we all had a tool that let us filter social media the ways we choose. What if we could choose to challenge ourselves one day, encountering perspectives from outside our normal orbits, and relax another day, filtering for what’s funniest and most viral. So we built Gobo."
Thursday, November 16, 2017
"Levandowski expects that a super-intelligence would do a better job of looking after the planet than humans are doing, and that it would favor individuals who had facilitated its path to power. Although he cautions against taking the analogy too far, Levandowski sees a hint of how a superhuman intelligence might treat humanity in our current relationships with animals. “Do you want to be a pet or livestock?” he asks. “We give pets medical attention, food, grooming, and entertainment. But an animal that’s biting you, attacking you, barking and being annoying? I don’t want to go there.”Inside Artificial Intelligence's First Church | WIRED
Enter Way of the Future. The church’s role is to smooth the inevitable ascension of our machine deity, both technologically and culturally. In its bylaws, WOTF states that it will undertake programs of research, including the study of how machines perceive their environment and exhibit cognitive functions such as learning and problem solving."
Excerpt from an extensive profile
""I try to do useful things," he explains. "That's a nice aspiration. And useful means it is of value to the rest of society. Are they useful things that work and make people's lives better, make the future seem better, and actually are better, too? I think we should try to make the future better."Elon Musk: Inventor's Plans for Outer Space, Cars, Finding Love - Rolling Stone
When asked to define "better," Musk elaborates, "It would be better if we mitigated the effects of global warming and had cleaner air in our cities and weren't drilling for vast amounts of coal, oil and gas in parts of the world that are problematic and will run out anyway.
"And if we were a multiplanetary species, that would reduce the possibility of some single event, man-made or natural, taking out civilization as we know it, as it did the dinosaurs. There have been five mass-extinction events in the fossil record. People have no comprehension of these things. Unless you're a cockroach or a mushroom – or a sponge – you're fucked." He laughs sharply. "It's insurance of life as we know it, and it makes the future far more inspiring if we are out there among the stars and you could move to another planet if you wanted to.""
If you think there's a remote chance this would be a "purely economic bet," consider this Crooked Conversations podcast: How dangerous is dark money?
"So it’s possible the Kochs are making a purely economic bet here, and they believe a version of the pitch Time Inc.’s management has been making for years: We’re going to use our declining print business to build a new digital business. (Time Inc.’s digital ad revenues passed $500 million last year — a number that Time Inc. execs like to compare to BuzzFeed, which did about half of that in the same time frame.)Do the Koch Brothers want their own media empire? - Recode
On the other hand, there are lots of rich, powerful men in the U.S. But there are only a handful of big, powerful media companies. If you’re trying to get your messages across to a lot of people, even a declining one might seem attractive."
What could possibly go wrong?...
"New iterations of the cryptocurrency are multiplying as disagreements over bitcoin’s design persist and opportunities for making a quick buck prove hard to pass up.Bitcoin's Rivals Multiply Amid Battle for Crypto Dominance - Bloomberg
The biggest offshoot, called bitcoin cash, appeared in August after a so-called hard fork in the bitcoin blockchain. That spinoff, currently valued at $18 billion, was followed by a less successful fork to create bitcoin gold in October, and now several other planned splits are in the works.
There’s bitcoin diamond, bitcoin silver, bitcoin unlimited and super bitcoin -- the latest proposal to emerge. The website advertising super bitcoin says the offshoot is backed by Chinese cryptocurrency entrepreneur Li Xiaolai. It promises to “make bitcoin great again” by, among other things, increasing the size of blocks on which transactions are processed -- a move that would reduce confirmation times and fees."
Searching for better information integrity
"They're exploiting a weakness that cuts to the core of Google's main proposition: Delivering trusted information online. That flaw emerged as Google rewired its search engine and giant video platform to prioritize immediate and timely content to become a destination for news.Inside Google's Struggle to Filter Lies from Breaking News - Bloomberg
"The purveyors of misinformation are really using these methods to complicate our systems,” Nayak said.
To combat the problem, Google is revamping the place where most people first see web results with breaking news, carefully curating the carousels that list “Top Stories” and featured posts Google pulls from Twitter in a way it hasn't before. Nayak said the company is working on methods to limit false content around news events, but declined to offer specifics. Google is also overhauling video search, limiting results around news events on YouTube to verified outlets and placing more algorithmic emphasis on these sources more broadly."
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Check the full post for an overview of some Google job search features that are probably making the LinkedIn team a bit nervous
"To help the millions of people who turn to Google to start their job search, we worked with leaders across the industry to introduce a new experience earlier this year. Since then, we’ve seen more than 60 percent of employers showing jobs in Search and connected tens of millions of people to new job opportunities.New tools to make your job search simpler
Now, based on feedback from job seekers, we’re introducing some new features to help make the process more efficient. Directly in Search, you can access salary information for job postings, improved location settings, job application choices, and in a couple of weeks, the ability to save individual jobs."
Deeply dubious donations; also see Missouri Opens Antitrust Investigation Into Google (NYT)
"Hawley, a Republican, unveiled a probe into Alphabet Inc.’s Google for favoring its own products in search results, citing the similar case in the European Union that resulted in a record fine. His subpoena is the most significant case against Google in the U.S. since the Federal Trade Commission picked up, then dropped, a competition case in 2013.Peter Thiel Gave Money to Attorney General Going After Google - Bloomberg
Thiel made a $100,000 contribution in 2015 to Hawley for the attorney general race, and gave two more $100,000 donations in 2016, according to Missouri state campaign finance filings. Hawley won the election and was sworn in on Jan. 9, 2017.
Thiel, an early investor in Facebook Inc., has criticized Google for years. In 2012, he sparred with then-Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt on stage at a conference, calling the company’s search engine a monopoly. “It’s quite legal to have a monopoly as long as you don’t abuse it," he added. In his recent book, "Zero to One," Thiel argued Google was a monopoly and said every company should want to be one."
Perhaps coming soon to a Whole Foods near you
"Shoppers visiting an Amazon Go store will scan their smartphones upon entering. Cameras and shelf sensors will then work together to figure out which items have been removed and who removed them, the person says; there will be no need for tracking devices, such as radio frequency chips, embedded in the merchandise. When shoppers leave, algorithms will total the order and bill their Amazon account.Amazon’s Cashierless Store Is Almost Ready for Prime Time - Bloomberg
The system is working well for individual shoppers but still struggles to accurately charge people who are moving around in groups, such as families with grabby kids, the person says. Go engineers have been studying families shopping together and are tweaking their sensors to recognize when a child eats an item while wandering around the store. Engineers are also figuring out which person to charge when a couple goes shopping together. Amazon has encouraged employees to enter the store in pairs and buy lunch."
Minitrue c2017 -- check the full post for a detailed Sinclair profile
"But under the leadership of Ajit Pai, a Republican who joined the commission in 2012 and whom Trump elevated to chairman, the FCC has seemingly gone out of its way to grease the wheels for the Sinclair-Tribune merger, reinstating a rule from the Reagan era that could help the company avoid limits on media consolidation. “The FCC is gaming the rules to directly benefit Sinclair,” says Craig Aaron, the president of the public interest group Free Press.Ready for Trump TV? Inside Sinclair Broadcasting’s Plot to Take Over Your Local News – Mother Jones
If the merger is approved, Sinclair’s broadcasts will reach 72 percent of all households. Some media analysts have speculated that with Fox News reeling from cascading sexual harassment scandals, Sinclair senses an opportunity to build a rival conservative network. David Smith is reportedly eyeing a collaboration with Steve Bannon, the former Trump White House chief strategist who leads Breitbart News. There have also been reports, which Sinclair denies, that the company is pursuing the ousted Fox host Bill O’Reilly as well as Sean Hannity."
TV stations are about to track you and sell targeted ads, just like Google and Facebook - The Washington Post
Something to watch
"But privacy advocates say the development of highly precise digital tracking in yet another industry will mean a setback for consumers, and could further concentrate power among a small handful of corporations.TV stations are about to track you and sell targeted ads, just like Google and Facebook - The Washington Post
Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said the FCC failed to include any meaningful privacy safeguards for consumers in the Next Gen TV proposal.
"The FCC has placed Americans who watch TV and online video at grave risk when it comes to their privacy," said Chester. He added that other rule changes the FCC is seeking to make this week could accelerate the erosion of consumer privacy as the television industry becomes more consolidated."
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Tangentially, see Susan Rice: Trump Is Making China Great Again (NYT)
"Beijing Sinnet Technology Co Ltd, Amazon’s China partner, said in a filing late on Monday that it would buy the U.S. firm’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud computing unit in China for up to 2 billion yuan ($301.2 million).Amazon sells off China cloud assets as tough new rules bite
“In order to comply with Chinese law, AWS sold certain physical infrastructure assets to Sinnet,” an AWS spokesman said on Tuesday, adding AWS would still own the intellectual property for its services worldwide.
“We’re excited about the significant business we have in China and its growth potential.”"
The Apple Watch can accurately detect hypertension and sleep apnea, a new study suggests | TechCrunch
Something to keep a Watch on
"Cardiogram and UCSF previously demonstrated the ability for the Apple Watch to detect abnormal heart rhythm with a 97 percent accuracy. This new study shows the Watch can detect sleep apnea with a 90 percent accuracy and hypertension with an 82 percent accuracy.The Apple Watch can accurately detect hypertension and sleep apnea, a new study suggests | TechCrunch
Sleep apnea affects an estimated 22 million adults in the U.S., with another 80 percent of cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. This is a serious condition where the person affected stops breathing in their sleep and can lead to death."
Google, IBM, or Intel acquisition timing tbd...
"After their research helped fuel the work of so many others, Mr. Schoelkopf and two other Yale professors have started their own quantum computing company, Quantum Circuits.Yale Professors Race Google and IBM to the First Quantum Computer - The New York Times
Based just down the road from Yale in New Haven, Conn., and backed by $18 million in funding from the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and others, the start-up is another sign that quantum computing — for decades a distant dream of the world’s computer scientists — is edging closer to reality.
“In the last few years, it has become apparent to us and others around the world that we know enough about this that we can build a working system,” Mr. Schoelkopf said. “This is a technology that we can begin to commercialize.”"
"Toward the end of the chat, Berners-Lee said it was important for people to be able to own and control their own data and that companies should think twice before assuming it’s a business asset. “It used to be said that data is the new oil,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s like nuclear fuel. It’s becoming toxic. Two years ago, the question from the board was, ‘How are we monetizing the data?’ Now the question is, “How are we protecting ourselves from the damage of this getting out?’”Father of the Web Confronts His Creation in the Era of Fake News - Bloomberg
I asked Berners-Lee if he owned a connected assistant like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. The answer, he said, is no; he believes that when conversations and queries are recorded in our home and transferred to the cloud, they inevitably become vulnerable to intruders and accessible to prying governments. Sounding very unlike the web pioneer who created the web nearly three decades ago, he vowed, “We must resist these technologies.”"
Later in the article: "Patients who agree to take the digital medication, a version of the antipsychotic Abilify, can sign consent forms allowing their doctors and up to four other people, including family members, to receive electronic data showing the date and time pills are ingested."
"For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a digital pill — a medication embedded with a sensor that can tell doctors whether, and when, patients take their medicine.First Digital Pill Approved to Worries About Biomedical ‘Big Brother’ - The New York Times
The approval, announced late on Monday, marks a significant advance in the growing field of digital devices designed to monitor medicine-taking and to address the expensive, longstanding problem that millions of patients do not take drugs as prescribed.
Experts estimate that so-called nonadherence or noncompliance to medication costs about $100 billion a year, much of it because patients get sicker and need additional treatment or hospitalization."
Monday, November 13, 2017
Article "bottom line:" "Microsoft has taken enough customers from market leader Amazon to create a viable cloud business; Google’s cloud gains have been slower."
"It’s hard to think of a business Amazon.com Inc. dominates as convincingly as the market for cloud computing services. Andy Jassy, chief executive officer of the company’s cloud division, Amazon Web Services Inc., likes to brag that his outfit has several times as much business as the next 14 providers combined. Amazon’s next-largest cloud competitor, Microsoft Corp., is less than one-fifth Amazon’s size in terms of sales of infrastructure services, which store and run data and applications in the cloud, according to research firm Gartner Inc. Google, the No. 3 U.S. cloud services provider and the second-largest company in the world by market value, makes one-fifteenth of Amazon’s cloud revenue."Microsoft and Google Turn to AI to Catch Amazon in the Cloud - Bloomberg
Tangentially, see Elon Musk vows Tesla semi truck will "blow your mind" (Axios)
"The industry’s size makes it a fat target for automation. Autonomous technology will help trucking companies reduce labor costs in the long run, first by extending the number of hours trucks are in operation, and later, by reducing the number of drivers. The industry spends billions of dollars a year on accidents that are largely caused by human error, and billions more on insurance premiums that should go down if and when self-driving technology is proven to be safer than human drivers.Self-Driving Trucks May Be Closer Than They Appear - The New York Times
The result is a furious race not just to develop self-driving trucks, but to get them on the road and making money. The chief executive of Waymo, the self-driving car unit owned by Google’s parent company, has said that self-driving trucks may emerge before self-driving taxis. Uber has a self-driving unit — which was founded by a former Google engineer who is now at the center of a patent-infringement suit between the companies."
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Excerpt from an extensive Tesla reality check
"Tesla’s goal has always been focused on going green, rather than creating the driverless future. (Its mission is emblazoned on its factory walls: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”) Yet as the automobile industry settles on the consensus that self-driving cars are coming — their promise to improve safety and to help ride-sharing replace car ownership for many Americans propels their inevitability — Tesla finds itself in the midst of a contest to do both. This set of challenges should be enough for any company, especially one led by a chief executive whose time is compromised by other business commitments as a founder of a rocket company (SpaceX), a new tunneling operation (the Boring Company), a company planning a human-computer interface (Neuralink) and a nonprofit focused on the dangers of artificial intelligence (OpenAI). But Tesla has given itself a few others too. One is to essentially reinvent modern manufacturing processes at the Gigafactory. Yet another is to create the first mass-market electric car ever. In the meantime, a company that has never made much profit needs to somehow figure out how to do so — that is, to put itself in the black before financial losses and missed deadlines curdle any hope that Tesla inspires, among customers or stockholders, into skepticism."Tesla’s Dangerous Sprint Into the Future - The New York Times
Friday, November 10, 2017
Check the full post for a stark Snap reality check
"This week’s Snap Inc earnings call was an indictment of the strategy pursued by the company in regard to both its core Snapchat app and its Spectacles hardware. The company has failed to drive two of the three major metrics that are key to success in the space, and it reversed its long-standing strategic stances on several key topics during a single earnings call. Having resisted calls for change for months, it appears Snap is now trying to change everything at once."Snapchat’s Strategic Failure – Tech.pinions
In other Twitter truthiness news, see Twitter, Facing Another Uproar, Pauses Its Verification Process (NYT)
"Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Thursday he’s “absolutely” willing to come talk to the U.S. Congress as lawmakers continue to probe Russia’s efforts to spread disinformation on social media during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was invited to testify to Congress and didn’t - Recode
Thing is, lawmakers previously and repeatedly called on Dorsey and other tech executives to make the trip to Capitol Hill — and they’ve apparently declined.
That includes a trio of Russia-focused hearings held in October. Lawmakers on one of the three congressional committees actually invited Dorsey to testify, according to two congressional sources familiar with the investigation, but he declined to appear."
"Apple may anoint the winner of Broadcom’s $105 billion bid for Qualcomm. A dispute over iPhone royalties left Qualcomm vulnerable to an opportunistic offer from its acquisitive rival. If Apple settles its dispute, it could preserve Qualcomm’s independence — but it all depends on whether Apple thinks a bigger Broadcom would be slavishly devoted to its devices, or just surlier.Will Qualcomm Agree to a Deal With Broadcom? Ask Apple - The New York Times
Qualcomm and Apple came to blows over royalties that the chip maker collects on mobile gadgets, most of which use its technologies. The actual payments aren’t disclosed, but analysts generally peg them at about $10 per phone. When Apple sued Qualcomm and told its suppliers to stop paying these fees this year, it helped push Qualcomm’s share price down by $10 per share, in subsequent months, to the $54.84 at which it traded last Thursday, the day before Broadcom’s interest was reported."
Thursday, November 09, 2017
"Still, it would seem as if the FBI would rather not have to go to such extreme measures to access the contents of an American citizen’s device, especially considering the fact that the exploit in the San Bernardino case likely doesn’t work on devices of all types. Although Apple legally complies with warrants for iCloud data, the FBI still has no definitive method for bypassing the encryption protecting iPhone authentication locks, which Apple purposefully makes near-impossible to bypass without the user’s access code.Apple says it immediately contacted FBI about unlocking Texas shooter’s iPhone - The Verge
In the case of Kelley, because 48 hours had passed without him using his fingerprint to unlock the iPhone in question, the access code security feature kicked in and locked the FBI out. Had law enforcement accepted Apple’s offer for assistance right away, perhaps they would already have what they’re looking for. But in that case, the FBI wouldn’t be able to blame encryption for its failure."
In the article URL: "The internet of tomatoes is coming starting with Boston salads"
"The biggest player in this area is International Business Machines Corp., which partnered with food titans including Dole Food Co., Nestle SA, Unilever NV and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. this summer on a pilot to add blockchain to their businesses. IBM says its technology can show where produce came from in seconds. Traditional methods can take up to a week.Someone Figured Out How to Put Tomatoes on a Blockchain - Bloomberg
The experiment on Ward’s farm this summer was designed to test whether the same principle could work for boutique restaurants committed to knowing the origins of all of their ingredients. Sweetgreen already uses tomatoes grown on Ward’s farm in salads sold at its Prudential Center location in Boston. In their pilot program with Ripe, tomatoes were tracked using Analog Devices Inc. and Blustream Corp. sensors, and some were taste tested against “normal” tomatoes from Ward’s farm."
"Al Gore invented the internet.
Confirm. The packet-switched networks had been around for a long time. But the internet’s a political invention. And yeah, he should be remembered much more prominently than he is as a creator of it.
The internet is just a passing fad.
I’ve actually thought about that quite a lot. That’s a profound question. Because most of us who worked on it thought, “O.K., this will be here forever and this is the thing.” But it’s turning out so badly. I mean, I feel like it’s such a failure on so many important levels, that it’s conceivable that people will decide it’s over and try to do some other form of digital networking. The internet might be remembered as a failed thing. It breaks my heart to even think that, and I hope it isn’t true, but I’m beginning to wonder."Confirm or Deny: Jaron Lanier - The New York Times
Final paragraph from a detailed Jean-Louis Gassée Apple snapshot
"What we see is Apple is doing what they do best: Taking chances. They made a risky bet with the iPhone X and covered it with the iPhone 8. The new and improved perception of Apple might come from the realization that both bets are winning, and that the iPhone X is a radically new, as opposed to a merely improved, breed of smartphone — and probably is the start of a new succession of carefully incremented future models."Forking The iPhone – Monday Note
Also see "This Is Political": CNN Sees Trump's Hand in Justice Department's Merger Crackdown (Vanity Fair) and In AT&T Deal, Government Action Catches Up With Trump Rhetoric (NYT)
"What would it look like if the President of the United States punished American businesses he didn’t like, or news organizations that reported things he didn’t like?Trump wants to punish CNN by breaking up the AT&T/Time Warner deal - Recode
It would look like this: Trump’s Department of Justice is threatening to scuttle AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner unless the merged companies dump CNN and Turner, the cable unit that houses CNN, according to a source familiar with the DOJ’s review.
The Financial Times first reported the news today, as did the New York Times."
Final paragraphs from a social media reality check
"Both Snap and Twitter have built products that are designed to do a few things well. But Facebook has built a platform. It’s a social environment where users can do a great many things — read the news, post vacation photos, play games, go shopping, or broadcast live video. Neither Snapchat nor Twitter will ever approach Facebook’s comprehensive appeal, or its immense success.Why we need Snap and Twitter to learn how to make some money - The Boston Globe
But an unimpeded Facebook is not healthy for our society. Let’s hope Snapchat and Twitter can find a way to hang in there."
Wednesday, November 08, 2017
Tangentially, see Google Patent Reveals Google Glass being Reinvented using micro-LED Displays, a Technology Apple is Exploring (Patently Apple)
"Apple Inc., seeking a breakthrough product to succeed the iPhone, aims to have technology ready for an augmented-reality headset in 2019 and could ship a product as early as 2020.Apple to Ramp Up Work on Augmented Reality Headset - Bloomberg
Unlike the current generation of virtual reality headsets that use a smartphone as the engine and screen, Apple’s device will have its own display and run on a new chip and operating system, according to people familiar with the situation. The development timeline is very aggressive and could still change, said the people, who requested anonymity to speak freely about a private matter."
Check the full post for a drive different overview
"If you’re a designer/car enthusiast this post is for you. I’ve broken down the details of the dashboard controls and interface of the Tesla Model 3, the first mass-market, touchscreen only electric car. The car’s UI design tells us a great deal about Tesla’s long term strategy, and their eyes toward a driverless future."What Tesla’s Model 3 UI Reveals About Its Vision for the Future
Probably not a great day ahead for Snap shareholders
"While ad prices fell as part of a transition in the company’s sales system, the larger problem, Snap said, is that people complain they don’t know how to use the Snapchat mobile-messaging app. Once part of the app’s allure for teens, the company now considers its mystery a hurdle to future growth. So Snapchat is being redesigned.Snap Will Overhaul Its App Just Nine Months After Its IPO - Bloomberg
“There is a strong likelihood that the redesign of our application will be disruptive to our business in the short term, and we don’t yet know how the behavior of our community will change when they begin to use our updated application,” Chief Executive Officer Evan Spiegel said Tuesday in his prepared remarks to investors. “We’re willing to take that risk for what we believe are substantial long-term benefits to our business.”"
The Trump administration's dubious plans to favor coal and nuclear represent another gift to China
"It’s been a year since President Donald Trump’s election and his pledges to transform the energy markets haven’t exactly come to pass.Coal’s Trump Bump Is Over - Bloomberg
In fact, what was true under President Barack Obama is still true today: Coal’s share of the power mix is declining, and wind and solar remain the fastest-growing U.S. sources of electricity.
Try as Trump might, economics, not policy, have driven these seismic shifts in the way America uses energy during his first year in office. His second year, though, could prove to be another story."
Tbd if Trump received a thank-you note for abdicating world economic leadership, when he arrived in China this week
"China is directing billions of dollars to invest in research at home as well as to acquire innovative technology from abroad. A Beijing-directed semiconductor fund is thought to have more than $100 billion at its disposal, while another plan aims to grow China’s artificial intelligence companies into a $150 billion industry by 2030.China’s Technology Ambitions Could Upset the Global Trade Order - The New York Times
Such efforts have some American government officials and business leaders calling for a rethinking of how the United States approaches trade. Lawmakers are pushing for tougher rules on technology purchases, which do not usually cover the types of deals that China increasingly prefers. Officials are also investigating whether China is stealing intellectual property."
Tuesday, November 07, 2017
Snap stock is down big after reporting less revenue — and fewer users — than Wall Street expected - Recode
"Snap reported revenue of about $208 million, roughly 12 percent less than the $237 million analysts were hoping for. Snap also reported a net loss of $443 million on the quarter.Snap stock is down big after reporting less revenue — and fewer users — than Wall Street expected - Recode
Snapchat also reported disappointing user growth. The company added just 4.5 million new daily users; analysts were expecting closer to eight million new users. It now has 175 million total daily users.
Snap stock was down more than 18 percent in early after-hours trading."
On a related note, Rocket Launch: NET December 2017 | SpaceX Falcon Heavy Inaugural Flight (Kennedy Space Center)
"In response to a question about privately developed, heavy-lift boosters, the executive secretary also reiterated his skepticism that such "commercial" rockets developed by Blue Origin and SpaceX could compete with the government's Space Launch System rocket, which is likely to make its maiden flight in 2020.Trump space adviser: Blue Origin and SpaceX rockets aren’t really commercial | Ars Technica
"Heavy-lift rockets are strategic national assets, like aircraft carriers," Pace said. "There are some people who have talked about buying heavy-lift as a service as opposed to owning and operating, in which case the government would, of course, have to continue to own the intellectual properties so it wasn't hostage to any one contractor. One could imagine this but, in general, building a heavy-lift rocket is no more 'commercial' than building an aircraft carrier with private contractors would be.""
Tangentially, see Salesforce Introduces the Quip Collaboration Platform (Salesforce press release)
"The new alliance ties key, complementary services in marketing analytics and cloud-computing. Salesforce clients that don’t currently use G Suite, Google’s package of workplace software, will get the offerings free for one year.Google, Salesforce Team Up in Cloud After Takeover Speculation - Bloomberg
Google’s Analytics 360 service, a tool for managing marketing data, will also be integrated with Salesforce’s products, giving clients new ways to track sales and advertising information. In addition, Salesforce will add Google’s cloud service to an existing list of certified partners for its clients that includes Amazon.com Inc.’s offering."
What could possibly go wrong?...
"The price of a single Bitcoin climbed from below $6,000 two weeks ago to above $7,400 on Monday, more than it moved in the virtual currency’s first seven years in existence.Hedge Funds Push the Price of Bitcoin to New Highs - The New York Times
Since the beginning of the year, the value of Bitcoin has jumped over 600 percent, putting the combined value of all Bitcoin at about $120 billion, or more than many of the largest banks in the world.
The rise has been fueled by several factors, including the sudden interest in virtual currencies from small investors in Japan and South Korea."
Thursday, November 02, 2017
Fun while it lasted; also see Boom in Bitcoin and Ethereum brings surge in initial coin offerings (WikiTribune)
"The Securities and Exchange Commission took a first step on Wednesday to head off the recent trend of celebrities endorsing new virtual currencies, warning that they could be breaking laws.S.E.C. Warns Celebrities Endorsing Virtual Money - The New York Times
Entrepreneurs have been issuing the digital currencies through so-called initial coin offerings, or I.C.O.s, which have become a hot but largely unregulated method of fund-raising for technology projects.
So far this year, some 270 projects have raised over $3 billion by selling new currencies to investors. The vast sums of money have drawn in celebrities, like the socialite Paris Hilton and the rapper the Game, who have promoted particular projects, generally in exchange for a payment of some sort."
See this Amazon press release for some additional details
"The feature — built using Apple’s ARKit technology — is clearly in its infancy: The virtual products were a bit jumpy on my phone’s screen and the picture definition and coloring won’t have you confusing the images for the real thing.Amazon’s new 3-D feature is augmented reality that people might actually use - Recode
But augmented reality gives you a good sense of a product’s dimensions and a decent idea of its color. And that will in some cases be enough to push an undecided shopper into completing a purchase online they otherwise wouldn’t have. At Amazon’s scale, even a slight increase in a purchase conversion rate leads to real revenue gains.
Amazon’s AR feature follows similar launches from other retailers like Ikea, Wayfair and Houzz. But none of these sport the U.S.’s most popular shopping app for iOS like Amazon does. If there’s an app that has the potential to push AR into the mainstream of online shopping, it’s Amazon’s."
Also see Bot 'breaks' Captcha, making the most annoying thing on the internet pointless (The Independent)
"Researchers at Vicarious, a Californian artificial intelligence firm funded by Amazon founder (and Washington Post owner) Jeffrey P. Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, have just published a paper documenting how they were able to defeat CAPTCHA using new artificial-intelligence techniques. Whereas today’s most advanced AI (artificial intelligence) technologies use neural networks that require massive amounts of data to learn from, sometimes millions of examples, the researchers said their system needed just five training steps to crack Google’s reCAPTCHA technology. With this, they achieved a 67 percent success rate per character — reasonably close to the human accuracy rate of 87 percent. In answering PayPal and Yahoo CAPTCHAs, the system achieved an accuracy rate of greater than 50 percent.The AI of science fiction just got one step closer - The Washington Post
The CAPTCHA breakthrough came hard on the heels of another major milestone from Google’s DeepMind team, the people who built the world’s best Go-playing system. DeepMind built a new artificial-intelligence system called AlphaGo Zero that taught itself to play the game at a world-beating level with minimal training data, mainly using trial and error — in a fashion similar to how humans learn."
In other Tesla news, Tesla's Solar Installations Fall But More People Opt to Buy Them (Bloomberg)
"“While we continue to make significant progress each week in fixing Model 3 bottlenecks, the nature of manufacturing challenges during a ramp such as this makes it difficult to predict exactly how long it will take,” he said.
The company attributed its slow pace so far to difficulties in producing battery packs at its Nevada plant, called the Gigafactory. It also said that welding processes and final assembly tasks in the Fremont factory were moving more slowly than other parts of the manufacturing system.Tesla’s Elon Musk Reassures Investors Over Model 3 Delays - The New York Times
“We are adding robots at the choke points and making the lines go really fast,” Mr. Musk told analysts during a webcast on Wednesday. “Speed is the ultimate weapon.”"
Also see House Intelligence Committee Releases Incendiary Russian Social Media Ads (NYT)
"“I’ve expressed how upset I am that the Russians tried to use our tools to sow mistrust,” he said. “What they did is wrong and we are not going to stand for it. For those who have followed Facebook you know that when we set our minds to something, we’re going to do it.”Zuckerberg Is ‘Dead Serious’ About Russia, Open to Legislation - Bloomberg
He repeated a pledge to double Facebook’s security staff to 20,000 people, and said he will invest in better artificial intelligence technology. He said he’ll also coordinate with Congress and the intelligence community."
Wednesday, November 01, 2017
Up to 2.07B monthly active users; see Facebook beats in Q3 with $4.7B profit, record share price despite Russia (TechCrunch) for more details
"Revenue rose 47 percent to $10.3 billion in the third quarter, compared with the $9.84 billion analysts expected on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Net income excluding some costs grew to $4.71 billion, or $1.59 a share, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Wednesday in a statement. Analysts had estimated $1.28 a share.Facebook Tops Sales Projections While Russia Ad Inquiry Unfolds - Bloomberg
Facebook’s results painted a picture of its growing power and influence on the same day its general counsel testified in Congress about how Russian actors used its social-media sites to spread political discord through paid ads and posts. The $100,000 in advertising spending being investigated by lawmakers pales next to the continued boost for the business thanks to growing demand for mobile marketing, especially via video. Meanwhile, Facebook continues to add users, with 1.37 billion people now logging on daily."
A timely AI reality check
"Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt says the US is at risk of falling behind in the race to develop cutting-edge artificial intelligence. Speaking at a tech summit organized by national security think tank CNAS, Schmidt predicted that America’s lead in the field would continue “over the next five years” before China catches up “extremely quickly.”Eric Schmidt says US could fail in the AI competition with China - The Verge
“They are going to use this technology for both commercial and military objectives, with all sorts of implications,” said Schmidt, referencing a Chinese policy document by outlining the country’s ambition to become the global leader in AI by 2030. Schmidt reiterated several familiar talking points in this debate: that the US is failing to invest in basic research, and that a restrictive immigration policy hobbles the country’s ability to attract AI talent from overseas."
Intro paragraphs from a Bill Joy article
"We are living unsustainably. Greenhouse gas emissions threaten runaway climate change, and excessive nitrogen pollutes our waters. We sense the impending sixth extinction but are shocked by breaking news of a mass decline in insects. Information technology has rapidly transformed our economy but not areas such as energy, materials and food, where we desperately need sustainability. We need to change our course.Three tech breakthroughs that will help transform the world - The Washington Post
Using a target list of 25 clean-tech “grand challenges,” I worked for over a decade to find, fund and commercialize big breakthroughs. One such challenge was radically cheaper batteries. Another was sustainable building materials, especially concrete. A third target was sustainable “meat.” They’re not the only breakthroughs that will help us transition to a more sustainable economy and society, but innovations in these three fields have the potential to radically transform the way we live. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m an investor in some of these companies; I want to tell you about them because I’m convinced they can change the world."
Capsules with context
"Roland Memisevic, cofounder of image-recognition startup Twenty Billion Neurons, and a professor at University of Montreal, says Hinton’s basic design should be capable of extracting more understanding from a given amount of data than existing systems. If proven out at scale, that could be helpful in domains such as healthcare, where image data to train AI systems is much scarcer than the large volume of selfies available around the internet.Google’s Artificial-Intelligence Wizard Unveils a New Twist on Neural Networks | WIRED
In some ways, capsule networks are a departure from a recent trend in AI research. One interpretation of the recent success of neural networks is that humans should encode as little knowledge as possible into AI software, and instead make them figure things out for themselves from scratch. Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology at NYU who sold an AI startup to Uber last year, says Hinton’s latest work represents a welcome breath of fresh air. Marcus argues that AI researchers should be doing more to mimic how the brain has built-in, innate machinery for learning crucial skills like vision and language. “It’s too early to tell how far this particular architecture will go, but it’s great to see Hinton breaking out of the rut that the field has seemed fixated on,” Marcus says."
Facebook has a big Russia problem, but its stock price and business are going to be just fine - Recode
A busy day ahead for Facebook
"Facebook’s revelations around Russia have been surprising. The company is expected to tell Congress today, in a separate hearing, that content from Russia-backed accounts may have reached as many as 126 million U.S. users over a two-year period. That’s significantly more widespread than Facebook initially claimed, and it’s a bad look for a company that is grappling with the role it played in helping Donald Trump become president.Facebook has a big Russia problem, but its stock price and business are going to be just fine - Recode
But while that looks bad, none of it seems to be impacting Facebook’s business. Facebook’s Q3 revenue is expected to be up more than 40 percent over last year, and the stock is up almost 45 percent since Election Day. Facebook’s ad machine seems completely unaffected by the fact it may have been unknowingly assisting Russia.
Wednesday provides an opportunity for Facebook to explain why — and how — that won’t change."
Also see Tech executives try to placate lawmakers on disclosure (Washington Post)
"The ridicule came from Democratic Senator Al Franken, who expressed amazement that Facebook had failed to detect Russians were behind American political ads on its platform even though some of them were paid for in rubles.Social Media Companies Get Unaccustomed Grilling on Russia Ads - Bloomberg
“People are buying ads on your platforms with rubles! They’re political ads,” the senator from Minnesota said. “You can’t put together rubles with a political ad and go like, ‘Hmmm, those two data points spell out something bad?’”
“It’s a signal we should have been alert to and in hindsight, it’s one we missed,” said Stretch, who received the most questions among the internet-company witnesses and the most prodding from lawmakers to respond directly rather than sticking to Facebook talking points."
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
IaaS != SaaS
AWS continues to rule the cloud infrastructure market | TechCrunch
"John Dinsdale from Synergy Research, an analyst firm that tracks cloud market share across the different types, says you have to be careful to separate out that SaaS business when measuring market share. His company found that AWS continues to control 35 percent of the market and that its challengers continue to trail far behind when it comes to infrastructure, which they define to include infrastructure, platform and hosted private cloud services.
“This stream of research is focused on cloud infrastructure services (or cloud computing), so it covers IaaS, PaaS and hosted private cloud services. It does not cover SaaS (we do that in a different set of numbers).The majority of what is included in Microsoft’s cloud numbers is software/SaaS. Microsoft is the leader in the SaaS market by a big margin,” Dinsdale told TechCrunch, but it trails dramatically when it comes infrastructure."
AWS continues to rule the cloud infrastructure market | TechCrunch
Also see Apple’s spat with Qualcomm may reportedly escalate to the hardware level (TechCrunch)
"Apple Inc. is designing iPhones and iPads for 2018 that don’t use components from Qualcomm Inc. amid an escalating dispute between the companies, according to a person familiar with the matter.Apple Is Designing iPhones, iPads Without Qualcomm Parts, Source Says - Bloomberg
The product plans are in the early stages and may still change, said the person, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Apple may use modem chips from Intel Corp. and MediaTek Inc. instead of Qualcomm’s, the person said. Apple made the decision amid a dispute over the iPhone maker’s access to the San Diego-based company’s proprietary technology, said people familiar with the matter.
Shares of Qualcomm were down 4 percent at 5:55 a.m. in New York."
On a related note, see How to Fix Facebook? We Asked 9 Experts (NYT)
"The detailed disclosures, sent to Congress on Monday by companies whose products are among the most widely used on the internet, came before a series of congressional hearings this week into how third parties used social networks and online services to influence millions of Americans before the 2016 presidential election.Russian Influence Reached 126 Million Through Facebook Alone - The New York Times
The new information goes far beyond what the companies have revealed in the past and underline the breadth of the Kremlin’s efforts to lever open divisions in the United States using American technology platforms, especially Facebook. Multiple investigations of Russian meddling have loomed over the first 10 months of the Trump presidency, with one leading to the indictments of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chief, and others on Monday."
Final paragraphs from a Francis Fukuyama Facebook reality check
"There is a further problem, however, that will not be solved by self-regulation, which is the problem of scale. In a healthy democratic political system, media companies will compete with one another to provide alternative points of view, subject to certain baseline journalistic standards. Such companies take particular political slants, but there is enough diversity to ensure some form of overall balance: if you don’t like the New York Times, you can always turn to the Wall Street Journal.Social Media and Democracy - The American Interest
This is not the situation that prevails in today’s internet world. There are not a variety of competing platforms with differing points of view; rather, there is Facebook, which has become a sort of global utility. Facebook does not have a clear political agenda, and is motivated by profit-maximization, which probably ensures that it will not want to annoy any large group of users by appearing biased. On the other hand, it de facto exercises a huge amount of control over what its users see on a virtual monopoly basis. There are entire countries where Facebook Messenger has replaced email as the primary channel by which people communicate. This kind of power wielded at such a scale is unprecedented in human experience, and we need to think carefully about whether American democracy can continue to coexist with such power concentrated over the longer run."
Monday, October 30, 2017
Final paragraphs from a Steven Levy review
"Though the next truly disruptive device will be something other than another slab of glass and silicon—AR glasses, anyone?—it’s possible that the iPhone X will be remembered as kicking off a new wave of apps that take us a step closer to making technology truly invisible. Built-in machine learning, facial recognition, and higher resolution cameras might unlock ideas for previously untenable applications. Persistent, reliable face authentication could open the door for personalization with apps (and probably freak out some privacy activists). Even wireless charging, which I find mostly useless now, becomes transformative when charging pads sprout on tabletops in every restaurant and surfaces in every conference room.Apple's iPhone X: The First Field Report | WIRED
Remember, as cool as the original iPhone was, it didn’t really begin changing the world until Apple let third-party software developers take advantage of its innards—stuff like the camera, GPS, and other sensors. Maybe something similar, albeit not on such a grand scale, will happen with the iPhone X. Those who shell out the cash for this device will enjoy their screen and battery life today. But the real payoff of the iPhone X might come when we figure out what it can do tomorrow."
Apple's earnings announcement Thursday should prove interesting...
"According to a report from Canalys, sales of iPhones rebounded this quarter, growing 40 percent to 11 million from 8 million for the same period a year ago. The research firm noted that Apple had posted year-over-year declines in iPhone sales for the Chinese market over the previous six quarters.iPhone 8 helped Apple sell 40% more smartphones in China last quarter | VentureBeat
Canalys attributed the turnaround to the iPhone 8. It said the new version accounted for a higher proportion of sales this year than the iPhone 7 series did at the same point last year. In the U.S., reports have indicated that the iPhone 7 remains more popular with shoppers so far."
Excerpt from a Tim Wu opinion; on a related note, see Twitter has permanently booted Trump troll Roger Stone for tweeting that CNN anchor Don Lemon should be ‘punished’ (Recode)
"What can be done? It is time to recognize that the American political process and marketplace for ideas are under attack, and that reinvigorating the First Amendment is vital. First, it is an imperative that law enforcement and lawmakers do more to protect journalists and other public speakers from harassment and threats. Cyberstalking is a crime. And as the Supreme Court has made clear, threats of violence are not protected speech. A country where speaking one’s mind always results in death threats is not a country that can be said to be truly free.How Twitter Killed the First Amendment - The New York Times
Second, too little is being done to protect American politics from foreign attack. The Russian efforts to use Facebook, YouTube and other social media to influence American politics should compel Congress to act. Social media has as much impact as broadcasting on elections, yet unlike broadcasting it is unregulated and has proved easy to manipulate. At a minimum, new rules should bar social media companies from accepting money for political advertising by foreign governments or their agents. And more aggressive anti-bot laws are needed to fight impersonation of humans for propaganda purposes."
Check the Google beer emoji in the article as well
"Apple's ordering of the lettuce, presumably a variant of iceberg sourced from an Italian quarry, is understandable as a mechanism for preventing the lower bun from getting soggy. It’s the same approach taken by the In-N-Out chain.Google CEO makes fixing hamburger emoji his top priority - The Verge
Google's positioning of the cheese is blasphemous, simultaneously defying both culinary physics (how do you cook it to drip down the bun like that?) and good taste (it’ll result in a soggy doughy mess). It's so egregious that Google CEO Sundar Pichai took notice and promised to "drop everything" and address on Monday if folks can agree on what the correct ordering should be."
Friday, October 27, 2017
Perhaps time to start planning HQ3...
"Amazon added a whopping 159,500 employees in the last quarter, pushing its total employment to 541,900 people worldwide, according to new numbers from the tech giant released today.
Amazon’s headcount grew 77 percent over this time last year, and a big reason for that is the completion of Amazon’s blockbuster deal to buy Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion and the acquisition of e-commerce company Souq. The Whole Foods deal includes 87,000 people who worked at the grocery chain, making up a big chunk of the employment growth this quarter. Even factoring out the acquisitions of Whole Foods and Souq, Amazon’s headcount climbed 47 percent over this time last year.Amazon tops 540K employees after swallowing Whole Foods in $13.7B deal – GeekWire
“Certainly hiring continues to remain strong, especially in the tech areas and sales force, particularly in AWS,” Amazon’s CFO Brian Olsavsky said on a call with reporters."
Tangentially, for a stark Russia reality check, listen to this podcast interview with Joshua Browder's dad: The Death of Sergei Magnitsky (with Bill Browder) (Stay Tuned with Preet)
"AS THE SON of a hedge-fund manager and the great-grandson of the former leader of the U.S. Communist Party, Joshua Browder has the mind of a capitalist and the heart of a collectivist. He achieved internet fame at 17 with DoNotPay, an AI-powered interactive computer program, or chatbot, that automates parking-ticket appeals. He created the bot to help friends contest tickets, which, he says, was easier than walking them through the process himself.This Robot Will Handle Your Divorce Free of Charge - WSJ
Then a blogger spotted DoNotPay, and the chatbot went viral. To date, it has helped more than 400,000 people save a total of $11 million in fines, without charging a cent. “I think people get caught up in trying to make money,” says Browder, 19. “I’m just trying to make the law free for everyone.” A computer-science major at Stanford who finds class “just so boring,” Browder is now out to democratize a new institution: divorce. About 95% of divorces are uncontested, which can cost up to $10,000, the bulk of which is for attorney fees. Starting in February, DoNotPay will generate all the documents necessary to file for divorce, without involving lawyers. All you need is to get your partner to sign."
Also see Why CVS Health would want to buy Aetna (Washington Post)
"The prospect of the giant Internet retailer entering the business is beginning to cause far-reaching reverberations for a range of companies, roiling the shares of drugstore chains, drug distributors and pharmacy-benefit managers, and potentially precipitating one of the biggest corporate merger deals this year.Amazon Threat Causes Shakeout in the Health-Care Industry - Bloomberg
On Thursday, the pressure was plain to see. A report that Amazon had received pharmacy-wholesaler licenses in a dozen states triggered a fast and steep selloff that wounded the likes of McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. And late in the day, shares of Aetna Inc. surged after a report that it was in talks to be taken over by CVS Health Corp."
On a related note, Russian government condemns Twitter’s ad ban for Russia Today and Sputnik (TechCrunch)
"Perhaps no form of communication has ever established itself so quickly and so thoroughly as social media. Hundreds of millions of people around the world have grown to rely on it for news and information. Now Twitter and Facebook are facing a moment of reckoning. They, as well as Google, are being called to account for their role in the deception and chicanery that has surrounded the 2016 campaign, especially from accounts linked to Russia.Russia Fanned Flames With Twitter, Which Faces a Blowback - The New York Times
How much damage did those accounts do in the months leading up to the presidential election? No one knows, not even the companies themselves, which are slowly and grudgingly releasing data about what happened. Next week, they will send executives to testify at congressional hearings, the beginning of an attempt to calculate an answer."
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Remember when Microsoft used to be bigger than Google?...
From Microsoft's Profit Rises 16 Percent - The New York Times:
From Microsoft's Profit Rises 16 Percent - The New York Times:
"Microsoft Corp reported a 16 percent rise in quarterly profit on Thursday as demand for its cloud computing services for companies rose and personal computer software business stabilized.From Alphabet Revenue Jumps 24 Percent on Mobile Advertising Growth (NYT):
The technology giant's net income rose to $6.58 billion, or 84 cents per share, in the first quarter ended Sept. 30, from $5.67 billion, or 72 cents per share, a year earlier. (http://bit.ly/2lkGlyz)
Revenue rose 12 percent to $24.54 billion."
"On a consolidated basis, the company's revenue rose to $27.77 billion in the third quarter ended Sept. 30. [...]
The company's net income rose to $6.73 billion, or $9.57 per Class A and B share and Class C capital stock, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 from $5.06 billion, or $7.25 per share, a year earlier."
Also see Twitter Shows Signs of Life With Renewed Sales and User Growth (Bloomberg)
"Turns out Twitter had been overstating its number of users for the past three years by erroneously counting users of third-party apps into its total monthly actives. Twitter adjusted its numbers for the past three quarters as part of its third-quarter earnings report Thursday.
Part of that admission means Twitter's user base shrank last quarter for the first time since 2015. The company had previously reported its user growth was flat at 328 million monthly active users but it was actually 326 million. So despite President Donald Trump's active use of the platform, it seems that more people aren't rushing to sign up for Twitter.Twitter earnings show a huge counting error with its users
But not all is bad in Twitter's world. CEO Jack Dorsey's goal for 2017 was make Twitter profitable, and the company is inching toward that financial success. It expects to reach profitability next quarter, which would be a first for the business."