Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 faces one low, but unconditional expectation - The Verge

In other smartphone news, see Report: Carrier sources indicate Apple iPhone 8 event date set for September 12 (9to5Mac)

"Now Samsung stares down the demons of its past with the Note 7’s successor, the Galaxy Note 8, which launches in New York today. This will be the most atypical Note launch in the line’s seven-year (there was no Galaxy Note 6 as Samsung skipped a number last year to sync up with its Galaxy S product numbering) history. In past times, our expectations of the Galaxy Note series have been to see Samsung at its most ambitious and ostentatious: the very best specs available, the most eye-catching designs, and the most grand and splashy presentation possible. But this year, we all want to just see the Galaxy Note 8 survive unscathed by the calamity that dragged down its predecessor. All our hopes and expectations basically amount to: please don’t explode."
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 faces one low, but unconditional expectation - The Verge

A Hunt for Ways to Combat Online Radicalization - The New York Times

On a related note, see At Rally, Trump Blames Media for Country’s Deepening Divisions (NYT)

"A more lasting plan involves directly intervening in the process of radicalization. Consider The Redirect Method, an anti-extremism project created by Jigsaw, a think tank founded by Google. The plan began with intensive field research. After interviews with many former jihadists, white supremacists and other violent extremists, Jigsaw discovered several important personality traits that may abet radicalization.

One factor is a skepticism of mainstream media. Whether on the far right or ISIS, people who are susceptible to extremist ideologies tend to dismiss outlets like The New York Times or the BBC, and they often go in search of alternative theories online.

Another key issue is timing. There’s a brief window between initial interest in an extremist ideology and a decision to join the cause — and after recruits make that decision, they are often beyond the reach of outsiders. For instance, Jigsaw found that when jihadists began planning their trips to Syria to join ISIS, they had fallen too far down the rabbit hole and dismissed any new information presented to them."
A Hunt for Ways to Combat Online Radicalization - The New York Times

Google and Walmart Partner With Eye on Amazon - The New York Times

To which a common reader response is likely: "Wait, Google has an online shopping mall?..." Also see Google and Walmart are partnering on voice shopping in a challenge to Amazon’s Alexa (Recode)
"The two companies said Google would start offering Walmart products to people who shop on Google Express, the company’s online shopping mall. It’s the first time the world’s biggest retailer has made its products available online in the United States outside of its own website.

The partnership, announced on Wednesday, is a testament to the mutual threat facing both companies from Amazon.com. Amazon’s dominance in online shopping is challenging brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart, while more people are starting web searches for products they might buy on Amazon instead of Google."
Google and Walmart Partner With Eye on Amazon - The New York Times

Apple Scales Back Its Ambitions for a Self-Driving Car - The New York Times

Must be a slow news day for the NYT

"Five people familiar with Apple’s car project, code-named “Titan,” discussed with The New York Times the missteps that led the tech giant to move — at least for now — from creating a self-driving Apple car to creating technology for a car that someone else builds. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about Apple’s plans.

The project’s reduced scale aligns Apple more closely with other tech companies that are working on autonomous driving technology but are steering clear of building cars. Even Waymo, the Google self-driving spinoff that is probably furthest along among Silicon Valley companies, has said repeatedly that it does not plan to produce its own vehicles."
Apple Scales Back Its Ambitions for a Self-Driving Car - The New York Times

Monday, August 21, 2017

Who Owns the Internet? - The New Yorker

From a timely Elizabeth Kolbert book review:

"Either out of conviction or simply out of habit, the gatekeepers of yore set a certain tone. They waved through news about state budget deficits and arms-control talks, while impeding the flow of loony conspiracy theories. Now Chartbeat allows everyone to see just how many (or, more to the point, how few) readers there really are for that report on the drought in South Sudan or that article on monopoly power and the Internet. And so it follows that there will be fewer such reports and fewer such articles. The Web is designed to give people what they want, which, for better or worse, is also the function of democracy."
Who Owns the Internet? - The New Yorker

How Hate Groups Forced Online Platforms to Reveal Their True Nature - The New York Times

On a related note, see This Group has Successfully Converted White Supremacists Using Compassion. Trump Defunded It (The Intercept)

"This was also a moment these hate groups were anticipating; getting banned in an opaque, unilateral fashion was always the way out and, to some degree, it suits them. In the last year, hard-right communities on social platforms have cultivated a pre-emptive identity as platform refugees and victims of censorship. They’ve also been preparing for this moment or one like it: There are hard-right alternatives to Twitter, to Reddit and even to the still-mostly-lawless 4chan. There are alternative fund-raising sites in the mold of GoFundMe or Kickstarter; there’s an alternative to Patreon called Hatreon. Like most of these new alternatives, it has cynically borrowed a cause — it calls itself a site that ‘‘stands for free speech absolutism’’ — that the more mainstream platforms borrowed first. Their persecution narrative, which is the most useful narrative they have, and one that will help spread their cause beyond the fringes, was written for them years ago by the same companies that helped give them a voice."
How Hate Groups Forced Online Platforms to Reveal Their True Nature - The New York Times

Android Co-Founder Has a Plan to Cure Our Smartphone Addiction - Bloomberg

So sort of a combination of Osborne (wait until you see the next version!) and General Magic (where Rubin worked 1992 - 1995)

"He says it’s best to view Essential’s first phone as a starting point—it runs the same Android OS as Google’s Pixel—not a radical departure. That will come later, he says, and will involve using artificial intelligence to change the way people interact with their devices, in part by outsourcing some of the more tedious tasks to an algorithm. 

“If I can get to the point where your phone is a virtual version of you, you can be off enjoying your life, having that dinner, without touching your phone, and you can trust your phone to do things on your behalf,” he says. “I think I can solve part of the addictive behavior.”"
Android Co-Founder Has a Plan to Cure Our Smartphone Addiction - Bloomberg

iPad vs Mac: Episode 7 – Jean-Louis Gassée – Medium

Also better together...

"How do we settle the argument? We agree with both sides.
As it becomes a more general-purpose machine, the iPad will continue to steal uses and users from the Mac. As often stated by its execs, Apple isn’t worried about cannibalization. More important, the iPad’s ever-improving UI and functionality will wrest users from its competitors.
This leaves the Mac line doing nicely for two disconnected reasons: High-end “truck-like” applications, and the estimable population of users who, as a matter of personal preference, opt for the traditional “horizontal-hands” UI."
iPad vs Mac: Episode 7 – Jean-Louis Gassée – Medium

Friday, August 18, 2017

Apple demonstrates how the iPad Pro was made for iOS 11 (Engadget)

Check this page for an index of the videos
"Apple's iPad sales were surprisingly good last quarter, but a lot of critics (including us) thought there was still no way the iPad Pro could replace a proper PC. The release of iOS 11 next month will change some minds, however. A new series of Apple videos shows how to use the new features, including the Dock, Files app, multitasking, Apple Pencil and more. Suffice to say, it drastically improves productivity on the tablets, making it much easier to do multiple jobs concurrently. [...] 
With 4GB of RAM and a peppy A10X chip, the latest 10.5-inch iPad Pro (and earlier models) can easily handle the new features, and Apple's Smart Keyboard and Pencil stylus make it more like a laptop than ever before. The new videos clearly show, though, that iOS 10 was severely holding the devices back. With iOS 11 coming sometime this September, it'll almost be like Apple is launching the iPad Pro all over again."
Apple demonstrates how the iPad Pro was made for iOS 11

Fighting Neo-Nazis and the Future of Free Expression | Electronic Frontier Foundation

On a related note, see The Misguided Attacks on ACLU for Defending Neo-Nazis’ Free Speech Rights in Charlottesville (The Intercept) and U.S. rights group rethinks defending hate groups protesting with guns (Reuters)
"In the wake of Charlottesville, both GoDaddy and Google have refused to manage the domain registration for the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that, in the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is “dedicated to spreading anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, and white nationalism.” Subsequently Cloudflare, whose service was used to protect the site from denial-of-service attacks, has also dropped them as a customer, with a telling quote from Cloudflare’s CEO: “Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.”

We agree. Even for free speech advocates, this situation is deeply fraught with emotional, logistical, and legal twists and turns. All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with. Those on the left face calls to characterize the Black Lives Matter movement as a hate group. In the Civil Rights Era cases that formed the basis of today’s protections of freedom of speech, the NAACP’s voice was the one attacked.

Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected. We do it because we believe that no one—not the government and not private commercial enterprises—should decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t."
Fighting Neo-Nazis and the Future of Free Expression | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Online activist group Anonymous posts what it says are private contact details for 22 GOP members of Congress - The Washington Post

Writers for Mr. Robot are going to have a surplus of material to work with for their third season

"The goal of publishing the information, said Pfeiffer, is for people to call on these members of Congress to more forcefully condemn the president and ask for Trump's impeachment.

The release by Anonymous marks an end of nearly two years of near-total silence for the decentralized group. Anonymous was mostly absent during last year's presidential campaign as leaks from online groups WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 featuring Democratic officials' emails dominated headlines and, in the eyes of many, altered the course of the election.

That changed only in recent days.

"Trump did something in the past few days along with the Charlottesville terror attack that clicked," Pfeiffer wrote to The Post."
Online activist group Anonymous posts what it says are private contact details for 22 GOP members of Congress - The Washington Post

What Is Trump Worth to Twitter? One Analyst Estimates $2 Billion - Bloomberg

$2B for Twitter, ~-$infinity for the rest of the world

"That’s the conclusion of Monness Crespi Hardt & Co. analyst James Cakmak, who said that the social media company would see as much as $2 billion in market value wiped out if @realDonaldTrump quit tweeting.

It’s not that the president’s defection would touch off a mass exodus, lowering the number of “monetizable” daily active users, Cakmak said in an interview. Instead, losing its most prominent user would hit Twitter’s intangible value and lead to what’s known as multiple compression.

“There is no better free advertising in the world than the president of the United States,” said Cakmak, who has a neutral rating on Twitter shares."
What Is Trump Worth to Twitter? One Analyst Estimates $2 Billion - Bloomberg

What Happens to Solar Power in an Eclipse? We’ll Find Out Monday - The New York Times

Tangentially, see Bill Joy Finds the Jesus Battery (Wired)

"Unlike most eclipse-watchers in the United States, Eric Schmitt wouldn’t mind seeing a few clouds in the sky when the moon starts blotting out the sun on Monday.

“A cloudy morning might even be helpful for us,” he said.

That’s because, as the vice president for operations at the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the state’s electric grid, Mr. Schmitt will be dealing with an unusual challenge. As the eclipse carves a long shadow over California on Monday morning, it is expected to knock offline more than 5,600 megawatts’ worth of solar panels at its peak — a big chunk of the 19,000 megawatts of solar power that currently provide one-tenth of the state’s electricity. The California I.S.O. plans to fill the void by ramping up natural gas and hydroelectric power plants."
What Happens to Solar Power in an Eclipse? We’ll Find Out Monday - The New York Times

Thursday, August 17, 2017

How Google Home and the Amazon Echo give a new twist to the home phone - The Washington Post

Tbd how many of the remaining home phone lines are used primarily for AOL dial-up access...

"The calls, which are free, are not tied to your smartphone, meaning you could actually call a different contact on each device at the same time. The Google Home can also distinguish between voices, meaning that it should be able to call the right “Mom” based on whether you or your kids are making that request.

Google now joins Amazon, Microsoft and Samsung in powering smart home hubs with calling capabilities. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.) And fans are hoping that Apple will include an audio version of FaceTime, its WiFi-enabled voice chat program, in its upcoming HomePod speaker.

What these companies are doing is putting a new twist on the old home phone, which has steeply declined as cellphones have soared in popularity. A majority of American homes, 50.8 percent, rely solely on cellphones for their phone service, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. (The center has been tracking this trend for years as part of an in-person survey that looks at health-care access.)"
How Google Home and the Amazon Echo give a new twist to the home phone - The Washington Post

Silicon Valley escalates its war on white supremacy despite free speech concerns - The Washington Post

Also see Facebook, Airbnb Go on Offense Against Neo-Nazis After Violence (Bloomberg), Spotify removes ‘hate bands’ from its streaming library (Engadget), and The A.C.L.U. Needs to Rethink Free Speech (NYT; check the comments as well)
"Silicon Valley significantly escalated its war on white supremacy this week, choking off the ability of hate groups to raise money online, removing them from Internet search engines, and preventing some sites from registering at all.

The new moves go beyond censoring individual stories or posts. Tech companies such as Google, GoDaddy and PayPal are now reversing their hands-off approach about content supported by their services and making it much more difficult for alt-right organizations to reach mass audiences.

But the actions are also heightening concerns over how tech companies are becoming the arbiters of free speech in America. And in response, right-wing technologists are building parallel digital services that cater to their own movement."
A counterpoint at the end of the article:
"Lee Rowland, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberty Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, cautioned consumers against being so quick to condemn companies that host even the “most vile white supremacist speech we have seen on display this week. 
“We rely on the Internet to hear each other,” Rowland said. “We should all be very thoughtful before we demand that platforms for hateful speech disappear because it does impoverish our conversation and harm our ability to point to evidence for white supremacy and to counter it.”"
Silicon Valley escalates its war on white supremacy despite free speech concerns - The Washington Post

After Trump Hedges His Condemnation of Hate, C.E.O.s Organize a Mass Defection - The New York Times

A timely Trump reality check; also see Does Amazon Pay Taxes? Contrary to Trump Tweet, Yes (NYT)

"On Wednesday morning, a dozen of the country’s most influential C.E.O.s joined a conference call, and, after some debate, a consensus emerged: The policy forum would be disbanded, delivering a blow to a president who came into office boasting of his close ties with business leaders.

With the collapse of the councils, the president has all but lost his most natural constituency — the corporate leaders who stood to benefit from his agenda of lower taxes and lighter regulation.

Before they could make a statement announcing their decision, however, Mr. Trump spoke. He had caught wind of their planned defection and wanted to have the last word. Taking to Twitter, he wrote: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”"
After Trump Hedges His Condemnation of Hate, C.E.O.s Organize a Mass Defection - The New York Times

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

James Damore’s Google Memo Gets Science All Wrong | WIRED

Also see The e-mail Larry Page should have written to James Damore (The Economist)

"The core arguments run to this tune: Men and women have psychological differences that are a result of their underlying biology. Those differences make them differently suited to and interested in the work that is core to Google. Yet Google as a company is trying to create a technical, engineering, and leadership workforce with greater numbers of women than these differences can sustain, and it’s hurting the company.
Damore further says that anyone who tries to talk about that paradox gets silenced—which runs counter to Google’s stated goal of valuing and being friendly to difference. And, maybe helping make his point a little, last Monday Google fired him. Damore is now on a media tour, saying he was fired illegally for speaking truth to power. Hashtag Fired4Truth!
The problem is, the science in Damore’s memo is still very much in play, and his analysis of its implications is at best politically naive and at worst dangerous. The memo is a species of discourse peculiar to politically polarized times: cherry-picking scientific evidence to support a preexisting point of view. It’s an exercise not in rational argument but in rhetorical point scoring. And a careful walk through the science proves it."
James Damore’s Google Memo Gets Science All Wrong | WIRED

Obama's tweet about Charlottesville is now the most liked tweet ever - The Washington Post

Looks like Trump will need to recruit more Russian bot followers

"Unlike some former presidents, Barack Obama is showing no signs of completely abandoning public life.

Since leaving office, Obama has commented on major events or controversies, including the terrorist attack in Manchester, England, and Sen. John McCain's brain cancer diagnosis. He did so again on Saturday, after the deadly violence in Charlottesville.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion … People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love … For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” Obama said, quoting former South African president Nelson Mandela in tweets."
Obama's tweet about Charlottesville is now the most liked tweet ever - The Washington Post

Is LinkedIn trying to protect your data — or hoard it? - The Washington Post

Microsoft didn't pay ~$26B for LinkedIn to give its data away

"Where LinkedIn and hiQ clashed was over hiQ's product, which almost exclusively depends on LinkedIn's data, according to U.S. District Judge Edward Chen. HiQ essentially helps employers predict, using the data, which of their employees are likely to leave for other jobs. While this HR tool might sound relatively boring to you and me, it's key to industries whose success depends on recruiting and retaining the best talent. A Gallup survey last year found that 93 percent of job-switchers left their old company for a new one; just 7 percent took a new job within the same organization.

HiQ has raised more than $12 million since its founding in 2012. LinkedIn itself is making moves to develop a similar capability, Chen said, meaning that LinkedIn's attempt to block hiQ from accessing its data could be interpreted as a self-interested move to kneecap a competitor. If hiQ can't get the professional data it needs to fuel its analytic engine, its business could "go under," Chen said."
Is LinkedIn trying to protect your data — or hoard it? - The Washington Post

A Start-Up Suggests a Fix to the Health Care Morass - The New York Times

In other health care news, see Trump Threat to Obamacare Would Send Premiums and Deficits Higher (NYT)
"The American health care system is a fragmented archipelago, with patients moving through doctors’ offices and hospitals that are often disconnected from one another. As a result, many primary care physicians — who often see themselves as a kind of quarterback who calls the shots on a patient’s care — have no easy way to monitor a patient’s meandering path through the health care system.

Aledade’s software addresses that by collecting patient data from a variety of sources, creating a helicopter view. Doctors can see which specialists a patient has visited, which tests have been ordered, and, crucially, how much the overall care might be costing the health care system. 
More important, the software uses the data to assemble a battery of daily checklists for physicians’ practices. These are a set of easy steps for the practice to take — call this patient, order this vaccine — to keep on top of patients’ care, and, in time, to reduce its cost."
A Start-Up Suggests a Fix to the Health Care Morass - The New York Times

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How a Conservative TV Giant Is Ridding Itself of Regulation - The New York Times

Related recommended reading: Tim Wu's The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

"The result would illustrate the real-world stakes of the Trump administration’s pursuit of dismantling regulations across government. The rollback at the F.C.C., a microcosm of the broader effort, pleases business interests and many Republicans who complain that regulators are heavy-handed and hostile in their approach. It raises alarms among free-speech advocates and many Democrats who say consumers suffer without aggressive oversight.

“I worry that our democracy is at stake because democracy depends on a diversity of voices and competition of news outlets,” said Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

If Sinclair’s past is any guide, the changes for viewers could be profound."
How a Conservative TV Giant Is Ridding Itself of Regulation - The New York Times

Why GoDaddy’s decision to delist a neo-Nazi site is such a big deal - The Washington Post

A difficult digital dilemma

"“It’s well past time for platforms that already exercise some discretion to stop pretending they are just dumb pipes that allow all types of garbage to flow through them,” said Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University. “It seems to me a significant move in a direction that is long overdue.”

But the American Civil Liberties Union said that consumers should not be so quick to condemn the display of even “the most vile white supremacist speech.”

People are relieved when speech they disagree with is removed, but the censorship can come back to bite them when they find themselves on the receiving end, said Lee Rowland, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberty Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project. The First Amendment has enabled Americans throughout the country’s history to challenge the status quo, because “we are able to reveal what people really think and counter it,” she added."
Why GoDaddy’s decision to delist a neo-Nazi site is such a big deal - The Washington Post

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bitcoin passes $4,000 mark to reach all-time high - CNET

In other irrational exuberance news, see Consumer debt is at a record high. Haven’t we learned? (The Washington Post)

"It's been a swift rise for bitcoin, which only passed the $3,000 marker for the first time at the start of the month. The rise also comes fresh off the heels of the so-called "hard fork" in bitcoin which saw a new virtual currency called Bitcoin Cash split off from bitcoin proper on August 1.

The split was designed to deal with the growing popularity of bitcoin, which was struggling to support an increasing number of transactions using existing blockchain technology, though the move left many wondering whether market values would fall."
Bitcoin passes $4,000 mark to reach all-time high - CNET

The Messy, Confusing Future of TV? It’s Here - The New York Times

From a TV reality check; also see Freedom from cable isn’t free: Flood of streaming services will make cutting the cord more complicated (The Washington Post)
"What happened to the glorious, consumer-friendly future of TV? We were told that the internet would usher in a golden era of streaming video, and that incredible shows and movies would be a click away through low-cost, easy-to-use services. The $100-a-month Time Warner cable packages that required navigating a byzantine menu of third-rate channels would be a distant nightmare.

Instead, we’ve rushed headlong into a hyper-fragmented mess, with a jumble of on-demand services that, added up, cost more and often offer less than the old cable bundle. There are lots of great shows and movies being made, but finding them has become harder than ever."
The Messy, Confusing Future of TV? It’s Here - The New York Times

Friday, August 11, 2017

The death of the internal combustion engine (The Economist)

Also see After electric cars, what more will it take for batteries to change the face of energy? (The Economist)

"The internal combustion engine has had a good run—and could still dominate shipping and aviation for decades to come. But on land electric motors will soon offer freedom and convenience more cheaply and cleanly. As the switch to electric cars reverses the trend in the rich world towards falling electricity consumption, policymakers will need to help, by ensuring that there is enough generating capacity—in spite of many countries’ broken system of regulation. They may need to be the midwives to new rules and standards for public recharging stations, and the recycling of batteries, rare-earth motors and other components in “urban mines”. And they will have to cope with the turmoil as old factory jobs disappear.

Driverless electric cars in the 21st century are likely to improve the world in profound and unexpected ways, just as vehicles powered by internal combustion engines did in the 20th. But it will be a bumpy road. Buckle up."
The death of the internal combustion engine

Microsoft dismisses Consumer Reports’ Surface complaints - The Verge

Nothing below the Surface (in terms of estimated breakage rate by the end of the 2nd year of ownership), according to Consumer Reports
"Microsoft says it respectfully disagrees with Consumer Reports’ findings on its Surface range of laptops and tablets. Consumer Reports has removed its “recommended” badge from Microsoft’s entire lineup of Surface PCs because the hardware was found to be less reliable than other PC brands. In a surprise report, Consumer Reports surveyed 90,000 tablet and laptop owners and found roughly 25 percent of Surface users have encountered issues by the end of the second year of ownership.

Microsoft disagrees with Consumer Reports’ findings, and Surface chief Panos Panay says the company stands “firmly behind the quality and reliability of the Surface family of devices.” In a blog post, Panay says the Consumer Reports survey is disappointing. “While we respect Consumer Reports, we disagree with their findings,” says Panay. “In the Surface team we track quality constantly, using metrics that include failure and return rates — both our predicted 1-2-year failure and actual return rates for Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book are significantly lower than 25 percent.”"
From Consumer Reports stops recommending Microsoft Surface PCs over reliability concerns (The Verge):
 Microsoft dismisses Consumer Reports’ Surface complaints - The Verge

Uber Backer Benchmark Sues to Kick Kalanick Off Board - Bloomberg

Perhaps in part a response to Travis Kalanick is telling people he will pull a Steve Jobs and return as Uber's CEO (Business Insider); also see Benchmark’s lawsuit has one major goal: Get Travis Kalanick off Uber’s board (Recode)
"Benchmark’s lawsuit “is a big deal,” said David Larcker, director of Stanford University’s Corporate Governance Research Initiative. “When your largest and most substantial VC sues the founder for governance concerns, it’s a big problem.”

Benchmark contends that Kalanick “fraudulently gained control” of three board seats by hiding his “gross mismanagement” of the company. In May, Kalanick approached certain investors, including Benchmark’s Gurley, seeking approval to add three new seats to the eight-member board. He repeatedly touted his abilities to manage the company and failed to disclose issues that would have caused Benchmark to question the appropriateness of the additional board seats, according to the complaint."
Uber Backer Benchmark Sues to Kick Kalanick Off Board - Bloomberg

Snap Stumbles Through Another Disappointing Quarter - The New York Times

Probably not a fun day ahead for Snap shareholders

"Snap will soon face a make-or-break year, said Norm Johnston, the chief strategy officer at Mindshare, a global media agency. “Either it will realize its full potential by delivering growth in daily users, or it will end up as the next Twitter,” the social media service that has been grappling with stalled growth, he said.

On Thursday, Snap did little to change its trajectory when it reported quarterly earnings that missed Wall Street projections. The company reported a loss of 36 cents a share, versus estimates of a 33-cent loss. Revenue rose to $181.7 million, versus expectations for $185.8 million. The company recorded a wider quarterly loss than a year ago of $443.1 million, up from $115.9 million."
Snap Stumbles Through Another Disappointing Quarter - The New York Times

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why Everyone Is Hating on IBM Watson—Including the People Who Helped Make It (Gizmodo)

From a stark IBM Watson reality check

"IBM seems to believe the Watson brand can breathe new life into their company. And it sure could use some resuscitation right about now. IBM’s revenue has fallen for 22 consecutive quarters. In May, Warren Buffett dumped about a third of his IBM stock, citing “some pretty tough competitors.” Two weeks later, the Wall Street Journal reported IBM gave its remote employees the option to either move to a regional office or quit. (Since the decision affects more than 40 percent of its 380,000 employees, the article suggests it’s a way of cutting employees without official layoffs.) Then in July, investment bank Jefferies published a report cautioning IBM investors, suggesting the company won’t return value to shareholders because it can’t compete with other tech giants investing in AI.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are all retooling their businesses around the belief that AI and machine learning are the future of the tech industry. IBM is in a more vulnerable position than all those companies. Even though IBM was an AI pioneer it has let its lead slip and damaged its reputation with overhyped marketing. There’s a rising sentiment in from tech and finance experts that, for all the idealism, Watson just can’t deliver on its promises."
Why Everyone Is Hating on IBM Watson—Including the People Who Helped Make It

Android Creator's Startup Raises $300 Million, First Smartphone Due Soon - The New York Times

Likely to be at least as popular as the Amazon Fire Phone

"The $699 phone, with a titanium and ceramic case, will compete directly against new devices from Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc this holiday season. Retailers include Best Buy, Amazon.com and carriers Sprint Corp in the United States and Telus Corp in Canada, Essential said in a statement.

The company, founded by Chief Executive Andy Rubin in late 2015, said Access Technology Ventures led the funding round, which brought its total investment raised to $330 million.

Strategic investors also included Tencent Holdings Ltd, electronics contract manufacturer Foxconn and Amazon.com, which participated via its Alexa Fund. Previous investors Redpoint Ventures and Playground Global also participated."
Android Creator's Startup Raises $300 Million, First Smartphone Due Soon - The New York Times

Facebook Introduces a Dedicated Home for Videos - The New York Times

See Introducing Watch, a new platform for shows on Facebook (Facebook Newsroom) for more details

"Watch is a redesign of the site’s current video tab, altered in a way intended to entice people to watch for longer stretches and return regularly to view shows, including the first programs funded by the company. The idea is that when users open Watch, the latest episodes of their favorite shows will be there waiting for them.

The redesign is part of a push for Facebook to be more than a repository of one-off viral videos by offering higher-quality shows that appeal to deep-pocketed TV advertisers and give viewers a reason to keep coming back. The company said it was rolling out Watch to a limited group of users in the United States before a wider release in the future."
Facebook Introduces a Dedicated Home for Videos - The New York Times

The Alt-Right Finds a New Enemy in Silicon Valley - The New York Times

A different kind of mixed reality

"For the last several months, far-right activists have mounted an aggressive political campaign against some of Silicon Valley’s biggest players. Extending their attacks beyond social networks like Facebook and Twitter, tech’s typical free-speech battlegrounds, they have accused a long list of companies, including Airbnb, PayPal and Patreon, of censoring right-wing views, and have pledged to expose Silicon Valley for what they say is a pervasive, industrywide liberal bias.

Complaints like these might once have been easily dismissed. But in the Trump era, as the right wing’s internet warriors have refined their tactics and gained legitimate political influence, they are putting Silicon Valley in an uncomfortable position."
The Alt-Right Finds a New Enemy in Silicon Valley - The New York Times

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Elon Musk confirms 'Boring Company' to build underground Hyperloop from DC to NYC [TNW]

Never a dull moment for competitors of The Boring Company

"Musk previously stated he wouldn’t seek to commercialize the technology in the original whitepaper unless other companies weren’t moving quickly enough. In Musk’s world, four years must seem like an eternity.

Some in the industry, like Dirk Ahlborn, aren’t taking the news all that well. “You would at least have wanted Musk to say, ‘OK guys, how can we do this together?’ or ‘How can I help?,’ rather than saying ‘Hey, I’m just gonna do it, thank you for making this known worldwide even more than it was before and showing the progress and making sure that people believe in it.”"
Elon Musk confirms 'Boring Company' to build underground Hyperloop from DC to NYC

When Silicon Valley Took Over the 'New Republic' - The Atlantic

Final paragraphs from a stark journalism reality check (adapted from the forthcoming book, World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech)

"Makers of magazines and newspapers used to think of their product as a coherent package—an issue, an edition, an institution. They did not see themselves as the publishers of dozens of discrete pieces to be trafficked each day on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Thinking about bundling articles into something larger was intellectually liberating. Editors justified high-minded and quixotic articles as essential for “the mix.” If readers didn’t want a report on child poverty or a dispatch from South Sudan, they wouldn’t judge you for providing one. In fact, they might be flattered that you thought they would like to read such articles.

Journalism has performed so admirably in the aftermath of Trump’s victory that it has grown harder to see the profession’s underlying rot. Now each assignment is subjected to a cost-benefit analysis—will the article earn enough traffic to justify the investment? Sometimes the analysis is explicit and conscious, though in most cases it’s subconscious and embedded in euphemism. Either way, it’s this train of thought that leads editors to declare an idea “not worth the effort” or to worry about whether an article will “sink.” The audience for journalism may be larger than it was before, but the mind-set is smaller."
When Silicon Valley Took Over the 'New Republic' - The Atlantic

Disney bids Netflix goodbye as it ramps up its own streaming empire - The Washington Post

Netflix disintermediation; also see Disney wants to make a huge shift in its business model — but it’s not ready to do it yet (Recode)
"Media and entertainment giant Walt Disney Company on Tuesday announced a move to bolster its subscription and streaming empire as it plans to end its relationship with Netflix and ramp up its online ESPN offerings.

Disney said no new releases will be available on Netflix after 2019. Instead, Disney will launch its own video streaming service that year for consumers to directly access the company's movies and shows. To help its cause, Disney announced it was buying a majority ownership in BAMTech, a streaming video company, for more than $1.5 billion."
Disney bids Netflix goodbye as it ramps up its own streaming empire - The Washington Post

The Culture Wars Have Come to Silicon Valley - The New York Times

Also see Contentious Memo Strikes Nerve Inside Google and Out (NYT)

"The culture wars that have consumed politics in the United States have now landed on Silicon Valley’s doorstep.

That became clear this week after Google on Monday fired a software engineer, James Damore, who had written an internal memo challenging the company’s diversity efforts. The firing set off a furious debate over Google’s handling of the situation, with some accusing the company of silencing the engineer for speaking his mind. Supporters of women in tech praised Google. But for the right, it became a potent symbol of the tech industry’s intolerance of ideological diversity.

Silicon Valley’s politics have long skewed left, with a free-markets philosophy and a dash of libertarianism. But that goes only so far, with recent episodes putting the tech industry under the microscope for how it penalizes people for expressing dissenting opinions. Mr. Damore’s firing has now plunged the nation’s technology capital into some of the same debates that have engulfed the rest of the country."
The Culture Wars Have Come to Silicon Valley - The New York Times

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Why Tesla Motors Is Fueling Up on Debt - The New York Times

Also see Tesla to Raise $1.5 Billion Through Debt Offering (NYT)

"Forced to choose between issuing a bit more of Tesla’s turbocharged stock or tapping the overheated junk-bond market to finance the Model 3 ramp-up, Mr. Musk, the company’s founder, opted for the latter. It raises execution risk for the $60 billion electric-car maker, but not by enough to persuade the chief executive to loosen his grip on the wheel.

Tesla has just over $3 billion in cash, but it is burning through roughly $1 billion a quarter as it embarks on one of the most daunting gambits in automotive history: taking production of its mass-market vehicle from zero to 400,000 or more a year in just 18 months."
Why Tesla Motors Is Fueling Up on Debt - The New York Times

Google has fired the employee who penned a controversial memo on women and tech - Recode

Check the source for more details and the full memo

"The employee memo — which was up for days without action by Google — went viral within the search giant’s internal discussion boards this weekend, with some decrying it and others defending it. Sources said the company’s top execs have been struggling with how to deal with it and the fallout, trying to decide if its troubling content crossed a line.

Apparently it did. In a memo to employees titled “Our words matter,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that the employee — who has been named on Twitter, although his identity could not be verified — had violated its code of conduct. (I am not publishing his name, because he — and others who disagree with him — have been threatened with violence online.)

Had the employee not belittled women’s skills, I assume, he would not be let go, but he made claims that many consider problematic, although others maintain that his myriad of claims are worthy."
Google has fired the employee who penned a controversial memo on women and tech - Recode

Trump’s Twitter Following: Bot and Paid For? - Vogue

Fake fans, fittingly... Tangentially, in the real world, Peter Thiel Has Been Hedging His Bet On Donald Trump (BuzzFeed)
"Curious citizens embarked on an investigation and found that Nicole Mincey is, in reality, a young college student in New Jersey whose name, address, and image have been used to create a pro-Trump bot account on Twitter. Heavy.com got in touch with the real “Nicole Mincey,” who says her identity was stolen in order to sell Trump products (and to flatter the president on social media). Not only was Mincey’s name used to create a fake Twitter account, but it was also stolen to start a Trump merchandise store (where she’s listed as the main point of contact), and a GoFundMe account for “Young Black Republicans,” which no longer exists.
After Trump’s high-profile retweet of Mincey’s post led to the unmasking of @protrump45, the name and profile image on the fake account were briefly updated to something else entirely, until Twitter suspended the account altogether—standard procedure for outed bot accounts. As of this morning, Trump has yet to take down his retweet."
Trump’s Twitter Following: Bot and Paid For? - Vogue

Friday, August 04, 2017

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? - The Atlantic

From a stark technology + society reality check

"Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.

Even when a seismic event—a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud—plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy."
Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? - The Atlantic

Facebook begins testing Stories on the desktop | TechCrunch

Also see Brands Use Instagram Stories More Than Twice as Often as Snapchat (AdWeek)

"The company has credited Snapchat with pioneering the visual communication format, but believes the pivot into Stories goes beyond simply copying a competitor’s popular app. Like Facebook’s News Feed – a format that went on to become the standard across social apps – Stories are a new way to share. That’s led to the format being broadly adopted across the industry.

Facebook itself has added Stories to Instagram, Messenger, and its flagship app. It even tried a Stories-like feature in WhatsApp. Elsewhere, Stories is inspiring redesigns of other top apps, including most recently, Tinder, Match, and Skype."
Facebook begins testing Stories on the desktop | TechCrunch

The White House asked Apple, Google and other tech giants to help upgrade the federal government - Recode

Rebranding a program implemented by the Obama administration, except for the "reducing regulation" part

"On a private call with those and other major tech companies Thursday, top advisers to the president, including Jared Kushner, announced the White House would be forming small “centers of excellence,” teams focused on reducing regulation while trying to get federal agencies to embrace cloud computing and make more of their data available for private-sector use, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter.

As part of those centers, Kushner and his aides with the Office of American Innovation asked the tech industry for its help — potentially through a system where leading tech engineers can do brief “tours of duty” advising the U.S. government on some of its digital challenges."
The White House asked Apple, Google and other tech giants to help upgrade the federal government - Recode

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Biological Teleporter Could Seed Life Through Galaxy - MIT Technology Review

What could possibly go wrong?...

"The device, called a “digital-to-biological converter” was unveiled in May. Though still a prototype, instruments like it could one day broadcast biological information from sites of a disease outbreak to vaccine manufacturers, or print out on-demand personalized medicines at patients’ bedsides.

“We have been dreaming, for about a decade, of the ability to fax life forms,” says Juan Enriquez, an executive with Excel Ventures, a venture capital firm that has invested in SGI, who imagines a new Industrial Revolution with the “digital-biological converter” as the cotton gin.

Craig Venter, the renegade biologist who founded Synthetic Genomics in 2005, but no longer takes a day-to-day role in its activities, has said he even thinks it will be possible to transmit life forms between planets."
Biological Teleporter Could Seed Life Through Galaxy - MIT Technology Review

Zuckerberg hires former Clinton pollster Joel Benenson - POLITICO

Small world...

"Zuckerberg and Chan have vowed to give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares, worth an estimated $45 billion, to charity. Bringing on Benenson is the latest sign that they’re pushing their philanthropic work more heavily into the political and policy world.

In January, the couple hired David Plouffe, campaign manager for Obama’s 2008 presidential run, as president of policy and advocacy. Plouffe had previously worked at Uber. Ken Mehlman, who ran President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, also sits on the board.

And earlier this year, the couple also brought on Amy Dudley, a former communications adviser to Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine."
Zuckerberg hires former Clinton pollster Joel Benenson - POLITICO

Why Apple Is Experiencing Another Growth Spurt - The New York Times

Also see Apple lifts the Dow above 22,000, but other stocks struggle (AP)

"On Wednesday, Apple’s stock surged 5 percent to a record high of $157.14 after it reported surprisingly strong financial results. It is now worth $822 billion, more than any other company in the stock market. And that is before it releases a hotly anticipated new lineup of iPhones this fall, on the 10th anniversary of the original model. Analysts say the new phones could drive sales up by more than 10 percent next year.

Apple is not alone. Other aging tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet, the parent of Google, and younger players like Facebook have also managed to post strong growth despite their tremendous size. The secret to their vigor, according to analysts and investors, is the vast amount of data they have about customers and their ability to sell all sorts of products to those customers."
Why Apple Is Experiencing Another Growth Spurt - The New York Times

Elon Musk Reassures Investors as Tesla Ramps Up Model 3 Output - The New York Times

Firing on no cylinders; also see Tesla Burns Through Record Cash to Bring the Model 3 to Market (Bloomberg)
"Mr. Musk’s comments came on a conference call after Tesla announced its second-quarter earnings. Despite the company experiencing a widening loss as it continued to invest in factories to accommodate the Model 3, investors found plenty to like in its prospects. Tesla shares were up more than 7 percent in extended trading.

Tesla said it lost $401.4 million in the quarter that ended June 30, compared with a loss of $293.2 million in the same period in 2016.

At the same time, the company reported overall growth in its operations, which include its automotive business and its solar-panel division."
Elon Musk Reassures Investors as Tesla Ramps Up Model 3 Output - The New York Times

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

How Apple Is Putting Voices in Users’ Heads—Literally | WIRED

A fascinating leading indicator

"“While our devices have been built to support hearing aids for years, we found that the experience of people trying to make a phone call was not always a good one,” says Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s director of global accessibility policy. “So we brought together a lot of people in different areas around the company to start investigating ways to make the process easier.” As she indicates, Apple’s accessibility team has been working for several years to support conventional hearing aids—an initiative whose results are made apparent by not only the dozens of hearing-related products in the App Store, but also a Hearing Aid Mode built into the iOS settings. It connects with hearing aids whose manufacturers have adopted the free Apple protocols, earning them a “Made for iPhone” approval. Apple also has developed a feature called Live Listen that lets hearing aid users employ the iPhone as a microphone—which comes in handy at meetings and restaurants.
Taking on the task of making iPhones with cochlear implants was harder. “Our goal was to get rid of all those extra things that need batteries and can get in the way, so when a phone call comes in you just hit the button to answer it and that sound is streaming into your hearing aids,” says Herrlinger. It wasn’t an easy process, because this solution required pushing the Bluetooth wireless technology farther than usual. To do this, Apple’s accessibility team—which spans the company’s entire product line—had to tap the talents of its engineering staff in wireless, battery consumption, and UI design. “It’s a different type of device, so we had to do more iteration,” says Eric Seymour, Apple director of accessibility engineering."
How Apple Is Putting Voices in Users’ Heads—Literally | WIRED

What Is Ray Kurzweil Up to at Google? Writing Your Emails | WIRED

Inbox singularity

"His group powers Smart Reply, the feature on the Gmail mobile app that offers three suggested email replies for you to select with a tap. In May it rolled out to all of the service’s English-speaking users, and last week was presented to Spanish speakers too. The responses may be short—“Let’s do Monday” “Yay! Awesome!” “La semana que viene”—but they sure can be useful. (A tip: You can edit them before sending.) “It’s a good example of artificial intelligence working hand in glove with human intelligence,” Kurzweil says.
And Kurzweil claims he’s just getting started. His team is experimenting with empowering Smart Reply to elaborate on its initial terse suggestions. Tapping a Continue button might cause “Sure I’d love to come to your party!” to expand to include, for example, “Can I bring something?” He likes the idea of having AI pitch in anytime you’re typing, a bit like an omnipresent, smarter version of Google’s search autocomplete. “You could have similar technology to help you compose documents or emails by giving you suggestions of how to complete your sentence,” Kurzweil says."
What Is Ray Kurzweil Up to at Google? Writing Your Emails | WIRED

Facebook Is Working on a Video Chat Device - Bloomberg

The device manufacturer battle for your living room expands... Also see Here's a Look at Facebook's History of Hardware Hardships (Advertising Age)
"Featuring a laptop-sized touchscreen, the device represents a new product category and could be announced as soon as next spring’s F8 developer conference, according to people familiar with the matter. They say the large screen and smart camera technology could help farflung people feel like they’re in the same room, which aligns with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s mission of bringing Facebook users closer together. The device is in the prototype phase but is already being tested in people’s homes.

The social media giant is working on at least one other product -- a standalone smart speaker that would compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home, said the people, who asked not be named discussing unannounced products. Facebook is hiring Apple Inc. veterans to help it create a Siri-style voice assistant that would run on both devices, they said."
Facebook Is Working on a Video Chat Device - Bloomberg

Apple Sales Exceed Expectations as Buyers Wait for New iPhones - The New York Times

Also see Apple’s Forecast Signals Strong Sales of New iPhones This Year (Bloomberg)

"Apple exceeded Wall Street’s expectations for revenue and profits for its most recent quarter, as strong sales of Macs and digital services offset flat sales of iPhones while consumers wait for new models to be released in the fall.

The strong results eased Wall Street’s fears that consumers were pulling back from Apple’s products, particularly its flagship, the iPhone.

Apple said little about the upcoming phones and declined to address reports of production delays with a new high-end model, which is expected to feature an edge-to-edge screen and is expected to cost more than $1,000. The company’s revenue projections for the quarter ending in September spanned a wide range, suggesting that executives are hedging on the exact timing of the iPhone update."
Apple Sales Exceed Expectations as Buyers Wait for New iPhones - The New York Times

Facebook's plan to convince businesses Workplace beats Slack and Microsoft Teams | VentureBeat | Enterprise | by Khari Johnson

From a Workplace by Facebook momentum overview

"Workplace by Facebook is currently used by more than 14,000 businesses. Facebook declined to state its total number of Workplace users today.

In addition to changes made since launch, Facebook is counting on a few factors to distinguish itself from competitors like Microsoft and Google, as well as established team communication companies like Atlassian’s Hipchat and Yammer.

Among them: A user interface everyone already knows. Millennials will make up 50 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2020, a fact Codorniou believes will give Workplace an advantage going forward."
Facebook's plan to convince businesses Workplace beats Slack and Microsoft Teams | VentureBeat | Enterprise | by Khari Johnson

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Amazon's eating the media, too - Axios

Check the full post for additional highlights
"Here's sector by sector breakdown of where Amazon is moving into the media business. A few highlights:
  • Amazon is reportedly working on not one, but two social media networks: Spark, a shopping social network, will rival Pinterest's social commerce network and Anytime, a standalone messaging app, which could rival WeChat, Facebook and Snapchat.
  • Advertising revenue is skyrocketing: Amazon made nearly $1.4 billion in advertising revenue last year — more than Snapchat, Yelp or Pandora. Per eMarketer, it's slated to grow its ad business by another 30% this year to $1.8 billion. On its Q2 earnings call, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said there's an accelerated growth in hiring for Amazon's ad sales and web services teams.
  • Amazon is becoming content king: It poured $4.5 billion into content this year, including $12 million on Sundance to beat out studios for Oscar-winning and Emmy-nominated content."
Amazon's eating the media, too - Axios

Snap stock didn’t tank on Monday, the day its employee lockup expired - Recode

Investors appear to be getting the message
"There are a couple possible explanations here:
  • Snap’s stock is near an all-time low. No one wants to sell at the bottom.
  • Even though the lockup expired, Snap’s current employees couldn’t really sell on Monday. Snap reports earnings next week, and employees are in a pre-earnings blackout period, which means that even though they are finally allowed to sell, they’re not actually allowed to sell. A lot more shares will most likely be eligible for trading beginning Aug. 14.
Snap’s stock closed Monday at $13.67, down 43 percent since its $24 trading price on its IPO day in March."
Snap stock didn’t tank on Monday, the day its employee lockup expired - Recode

Apple’s Silence in China Sets a Dangerous Precedent - The New York Times

Protest different; also see Apple is pulling VPNs from the Chinese App Store. Here’s what that means. (The Washington Post)
"“Apple’s response is tremendously disappointing,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights advocacy group. “I think it’s possible that Apple is playing a bigger role behind the scenes here. But the problem with that is, from the outside it looks exactly like doing nothing.”

This isn’t just a blow for the liberties of Apple’s customers in China. Authoritarian governments have a tendency to copy what works. Russia just passed a law curbing VPNs. Early this year, Apple pulled down The New York Times app in the Chinese App Store, and both Apple and Google removed the LinkedIn app from their Russian app stores. In the United States, President Trump has called for greater legal measures against the press. And he took the F.B.I.’s side in that fight over iPhones. What happens in China doesn’t stay in China."
Apple’s Silence in China Sets a Dangerous Precedent - The New York Times