Tuesday, October 31, 2017

AWS continues to rule the cloud infrastructure market | TechCrunch

IaaS != SaaS
"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

Apple Is Designing iPhones, iPads Without Qualcomm Parts, Source Says - Bloomberg

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.

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."
Apple Is Designing iPhones, iPads Without Qualcomm Parts, Source Says - Bloomberg

Russian Influence Reached 126 Million Through Facebook Alone - The New York Times

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.

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."
Russian Influence Reached 126 Million Through Facebook Alone - The New York Times

Social Media and Democracy - The American Interest

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.

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."
Social Media and Democracy - The American Interest

Monday, October 30, 2017

Apple's iPhone X: The First Field Report | WIRED

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.

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 iPhone X: The First Field Report | WIRED

iPhone 8 helped Apple sell 40% more smartphones in China last quarter | VentureBeat

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.

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."
iPhone 8 helped Apple sell 40% more smartphones in China last quarter | VentureBeat

How Twitter Killed the First Amendment - The New York Times

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.

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."
How Twitter Killed the First Amendment - The New York Times

Google CEO makes fixing hamburger emoji his top priority - The Verge

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'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."
Google CEO makes fixing hamburger emoji his top priority - The Verge

Friday, October 27, 2017

Amazon tops 540K employees after swallowing Whole Foods in $13.7B deal – GeekWire

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.

“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."
Amazon tops 540K employees after swallowing Whole Foods in $13.7B deal – GeekWire

This Robot Will Handle Your Divorce Free of Charge - WSJ

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.

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."
This Robot Will Handle Your Divorce Free of Charge - WSJ

Amazon Threat Causes Shakeout in the Health-Care Industry - Bloomberg

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.

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."
Amazon Threat Causes Shakeout in the Health-Care Industry - Bloomberg

Russia Fanned Flames With Twitter, Which Faces a Blowback - The New York Times

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.

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."
Russia Fanned Flames With Twitter, Which Faces a Blowback - The New York Times

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Microsoft's Profit Rises 16 Percent - The New York Times

Remember when Microsoft used to be bigger than Google?...

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.

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."
From Alphabet Revenue Jumps 24 Percent on Mobile Advertising Growth (NYT):
"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."

Twitter earnings show a huge counting error with its users (Mashable)

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.

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."
Twitter earnings show a huge counting error with its users

Cisco and Google Find Mutual Interest in Cloud Computing - The New York Times

Also see Google and Cisco announce hybrid cloud partnership (TechCrunch)

"The Silicon Valley giants on Wednesday announced a collaboration to help companies manage software and technology services that may run in their own data centers or in facilities operated by external cloud services.

Google, the largest unit of its parent, Alphabet, hopes to benefit from Cisco’s close ties to corporate customers as the search engine giant tries to catch up to Amazon, the market leader in cloud services, and Microsoft.

Cisco could also use some help. The tech giant, which in 2000 briefly became the world’s most valuable publicly traded company when its computer networking equipment was used to build the internet, faces a serious threat from cloud services. Companies that once spent heavily on new hardware from Cisco and other suppliers increasingly rent cloud services instead, with companies like Amazon doing most of the heavy lifting in the background."
Cisco and Google Find Mutual Interest in Cloud Computing - The New York Times

Addressing Russian Influence: What Can We Learn From U.S. Cold War Counter-Propaganda Efforts? - Lawfare

History repeats, accelerated by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others; on a related note, see Russia’s Favored Outlet Is an Online News Giant. YouTube Helped. (NYT)
"Microsoft and Google have joined Facebook in revealing that Russia may have purchased ads in an effort to manipulate the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Reactions to this news have been a mix of bewilderment and alarm—but perhaps we should not be so surprised. The fabricated news stories and click-bait headlines that dominated social media throughout the 2016 campaign are not a new tactic for the Russians. They are simply the latest iteration of a practice Moscow has used for nearly a century.

This type of operation is known in the intelligence community as “disinformation,” an Anglicization of the Russian term “dezinformatsiya.” Disinformation has taken many forms across the decades, from funding communist newspapers to orchestrating the publication of news stories based on forged documents. During the Cold War these tactics were at the forefront of the Soviet Union’s strategy to discredit and undermine the United States. In light of this history, it is perhaps useful to look at how the United States countered Soviet tactics and consider whether any U.S. countermeasures drawn from the past can be adapted to address the situation today."
Addressing Russian Influence: What Can We Learn From U.S. Cold War Counter-Propaganda Efforts? - Lawfare

Nazi Groups Kicked Off Reddit as Next Wave of Community Bans Begins (Gizmodo)

Also see Reddit bans Nazi boards in crackdown on ‘violent’ content (The Verge)

"Bad news for puerile idiots or propagandizing fascists—great news for basically everyone else.

So far, at least seven communities have been kicked off of Reddit, including r/Nazi, r/EuropeanNationalism, and r/pol (an extension of the 4chan board of the same name.) Of these, the largest had under 7,000 subscribers and the smallest had just 25. One was previously “quarantined”—a state where communities with content deemed to be “extremely offensive or upsetting to the average redditor” are only available to logged-in users who know where to look.

Of course, speculation abounds among users as to whether or not this tweak in the site rules will be used to justify banning r/the_donald, the race-baiting, mod-threatening, and ostensibly Trump-centered community which has at various points declared “war” on the rest of Reddit."
Nazi Groups Kicked Off Reddit as Next Wave of Community Bans Begins

Facebook’s Workplace, now at 30,000 orgs, adds Chat desktop apps and group video chat | TechCrunch

Workplace momentum; also see Workplace: One Year Later (Workplace blog)
"It’s been once year since Workplace, Facebook’s social network designed specifically for businesses and other organizations, came out of beta to take on the likes of Slack, Atlassian, Microsoft and others in the world of enterprise collaboration. Now, with 30,000 organizations using Workplace across some 1 million groups (more than double the figures Facebook published April), Facebook is stepping on the gas again.

Today, the company is releasing a desktop app for Workplace Chat, with new features like screen sharing and, in coming months, group video chat, which will let people create virtual “rooms” of up to 50 people for interactive video conferences. Previously, the video features in Workplace were limited to live video broadcasts and one-to-one video conversations."
Facebook’s Workplace, now at 30,000 orgs, adds Chat desktop apps and group video chat | TechCrunch

Amazon, Facebook, and Google: Too big to tolerate. Too big to stop. | LinkedIn

From a David Kirkpatrick reality check; for a review of several related recent books, see You Are the Product (London Review of Books) and Who Owns the Internet? (The New Yorker)

"Here’s why Mark Zuckerberg cannot run for president any time soon even if he wanted to. If he did, it would highlight a simple and disturbing fact. The company, if it chose, could engineer the results of any election in the world. Facebook controls the information flow to a huge percentage of the citizens in most of the democratic world, including the United States. Unless and until Zuckerberg takes concrete action to make the way his service works more transparent to the world, to run for office would invite scrutiny he has to avoid. The same holds true for his high-profile deputy Sheryl Sandberg, whose political ambitions have been the subject of speculation for considerably longer.

Facebook and Google present a dilemma to the world. Billions depend on them for communication, entertainment, and information. They have vast influence on society, including, it increasingly appears, some very unpalatable effects on social dialogue and politics. But they answer to nobody but themselves. And nobody inside or outside of the companies really has a good idea what we as a society should do about it."
Amazon, Facebook, and Google: Too big to tolerate. Too big to stop. | LinkedIn

Amazon wants to get inside your home. Just for a moment or two. - The Boston Globe

Also see Amazon Key is Silicon Valley at its most out-of-touch (Washington Post)

"But Amazon Key is far more ambitious than Walmart’s play. For one thing, it’s about so much more than groceries. In addition, it fits nicely with Amazon’s ongoing effort to weaken the grip of its package delivery partners — the US Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx. The company spent more than $16 billion last year just delivering stuff. To cut costs, Amazon figures it should have more control over the shipping process, so it has leased dozens of cargo planes, purchased thousands of truck trailers, and built up a fleet of home-delivery vans.

Amazon Key fits into the plan. All the drivers in the program will be Amazon employees or contractors who have passed company background checks to ensure they’re not housebreakers or drunk drivers. But it also ensures that if Amazon Key catches on, the company will deliver a larger share of its own parcels."
Amazon wants to get inside your home. Just for a moment or two. - The Boston Globe

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Amazon Key is a new service that lets couriers unlock your front door - The Verge

The internet of delivered things

"The service is called Amazon Key, and it relies on a Amazon’s new Cloud Cam and compatible smart lock. The camera is the hub, connected to the internet via your home Wi-Fi. The camera talks to the lock over Zigbee, a wireless protocol utilized by many smart home devices.

When a courier arrives with a package for in-home delivery, they scan the barcode, sending a request to Amazon’s cloud. If everything checks out, the cloud grants permission by sending a message back to the camera, which starts recording. The courier then gets a prompt on their app, swipes the screen, and voilĂ , your door unlocks. They drop off the package, relock the door with another swipe, and are on their way. The customer will get a notification that their delivery has arrived, along with a short video showing the drop-off to confirm everything was done properly."
Amazon Key is a new service that lets couriers unlock your front door - The Verge

Amazon’s new Kindle app adds a light theme and deeper Goodreads integration - The Verge

See this Amazon press release for details
"The light theme is much appreciated, giving users a choice between white or black borders in the library, home, and store sections of the app. There are a few other visual changes astute observers may pick up on, including the addition of Amazon’s custom Bookerly font for book titles and an added emphasis on book covers with larger display images. Beyond the fresh coat of paint, Amazon is adding a new “one-tap access” feature that floats your current book at the bottom of the app in a miniaturized rectangle that follows you around the app. That way, you can easily jump back in at any time. The search bar is also more prominently placed. 
Goodreads, which Amazon acquired back in 2013, has been a fixture in the Kindle app for quite some time, allowing you to mark books as read on your Goodreads account and to share what you’re current reading with your followers. But starting today, Goodreads is more deeply woven throughout the mobile app’s entire look and feel."
Amazon’s new Kindle app adds a light theme and deeper Goodreads integration - The Verge

The FCC just ended a decades-old rule designed to keep TV and radio under local control - The Washington Post

On a related note (from July), see John Oliver: Sinclair Broadcasting brings 'troubling' rightwing bias to local news (The Guardian)

"But that same technological capability could prompt large media titans to take over small, local TV and radio stations, turning them into megaphones blasting content developed for a national audience rather than a local one, according to critics.

"At a time when broadcast conglomerates like Sinclair are gobbling up more stations," the consumer advocacy group Free Press said in a regulatory filing on the matter in July, "the Commission’s proposal would allow these conglomerates to move even more resources away from struggling communities and further centralize broadcasting facilities and staff in wealthier metropolitan areas.""
The FCC just ended a decades-old rule designed to keep TV and radio under local control - The Washington Post

Twitter Plans to Open Ad Data to Users - The New York Times

Check this Twitter post for more details

"The company said that under its new rules, users would be able to see who had created an ad, how long an ad had been running and how the ad was targeted toward a specific user.

Political ads for a candidate or party would carry a special label to make them stand out. Twitter said it would disclose who had paid for the election advertisement and allow users to find information about the buyer, including ad spending history and ad targeting practices."
Twitter Plans to Open Ad Data to Users - The New York Times

Inside Apple’s Struggle to Get the iPhone X to Market on Time - Bloomberg

Also see Apple says retail stores will have iPhone X stock at launch, encourages customers to ‘arrive early’ (9to5Mac) and Apple disputes Bloomberg report that it reduced Face ID accuracy (Reuters)
"As Wall Street analysts and fan blogs watched for signs that the company would stumble, Apple came up with a solution: It quietly told suppliers they could reduce the accuracy of the face-recognition technology to make it easier to manufacture, according to people familiar with the situation.

With the iPhone X set to debut on Nov. 3, we’re about to find out whether the move has paid off. Some analysts say there may still be too few iPhone Xs to meet initial demand. Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities predicts Apple will have two to three million handsets available on launch day and 25 million to 30 million units for the holiday quarter, down from his previous forecast of 40 million. For comparison, Apple sold 78 million phones during the same period last year, although that included all models."
Inside Apple’s Struggle to Get the iPhone X to Market on Time - Bloomberg

Square, the Twitter Boss’s Other Company, Could Pass It in Value - The New York Times

Win some, lose some

"Jack Dorsey has become a household name in Silicon Valley thanks to his role as the chief executive and co-founder of Twitter, President Trump’s favorite megaphone.

People will sometimes mention, as an afterthought, that Mr. Dorsey also runs another start-up he helped found, the payment company Square.

Sometime in the very near future, though, the value of Mr. Dorsey’s distinctly less sexy second company, where he tends to work in the morning, is likely to become more valuable than his more well-known first company, where he works in the afternoon after a short walk between the two companies’ headquarters in San Francisco."
Square, the Twitter Boss’s Other Company, Could Pass It in Value - The New York Times

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Snap reportedly stuck with ‘hundreds of thousands' of unsold Spectacles - The Verge

Perhaps the next Essential phone purchase incentive...

"Spectacles were one of last winter’s hottest gifts, but apparently demand for them quickly died off and left Snap in a bad position. The Information reports that Snap expected demand for Spectacles to continue after the holidays and ordered “hundreds of thousands” of additional units. But after it opened sales to a wider audience, that didn’t happen, and those units are now reported to be sitting around in warehouses, unsold.

It’s not known exactly how many Spectacles have been sold so far, but from the sound of it, Snap may have dramatically over-ordered units of its debut hardware device. Earlier this month, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said the company had sold “over 150,000 units,” which sounds pretty bad in the context of having hundreds of thousands sitting around waiting to be sold; although The Information says that figure includes unassembled units with parts that could potentially be used in other products."
Snap reportedly stuck with ‘hundreds of thousands' of unsold Spectacles - The Verge

It’s been 10 years since Microsoft invested in Facebook — now Facebook is worth almost as much as Microsoft - Recode

Tbd if that beats the potential ROI on Microsoft's 1997 Apple investment (which Microsoft sold long ago)

"Now Facebook is worth $508 billion, up more than 30x from its 2007 level. It has more than two billion users, up 40x from where it was 10 years ago.

It’s hard to argue that investing early in Facebook helped Microsoft, which never embraced the advertising business the deal was supposed to accelerate. And the company’s resurgence under CEO Satya Nadella has been all about software, not social.

But it’s still one of the all-time great corporate investments."

It’s been 10 years since Microsoft invested in Facebook — now Facebook is worth almost as much as Microsoft - Recode

Amazon Counts Its Suitors: 238 Want to Be Home for 2nd Headquarters - The New York Times

HQ2 bid processing is looking like a big data app scenario...

"The bids, received by last Thursday’s deadline, came from so many places across the continent that it’s perhaps simpler to note the ones that didn’t fall over themselves to woo Amazon.

The company did not provide a list, but a color-coded map posted on its website revealed the applicants came from all but seven American states — North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Vermont, Arkansas and Hawaii."
Amazon Counts Its Suitors: 238 Want to Be Home for 2nd Headquarters - The New York Times

Bitcoin Pioneer Says New Coin to Work on Multiple Blockchains - Bloomberg

In other cryptocurrency forecasts, see Bitcoin price may "implode," Saudi Prince Alaweed says (CBS News)

"The mobility means that if one blockchain dies out as the result of infighting among developers or slackened use, metronome owners can move their holdings elsewhere. That should help the coins retain value, and ensure their longevity, Garzik, co-founder of startup Bloq that created metronome, said in a phone interview. It will be unveiled Tuesday at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas.

"Institutional investors should be very excited to see something like this," Matthew Roszak, the other co-founder of Bloq and chairman of industry advocate Chamber of Digital Commerce, said in a phone interview. "We’ve built a thousand-year cryptocurrency, something that’s built to last.""
Bitcoin Pioneer Says New Coin to Work on Multiple Blockchains - Bloomberg

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Future Needs an Upgrade – Handelsblatt Global

From a wide-ranging Yuval Noah Harari interview

"We implement new technologies very quickly into our lives. Should there be more political discussion about this?

Yes. The political system in much of the world is broken, unable to produce meaningful visions for the future. Beyond the day-to-day management of the country, the political system needs to look 20, 30 years into the future and produce a vision of where we want to go, then to try to implement this vision. In the 20th century you had great visions for the fate of humankind – not all of them good – but they were certainly very ambitious. You had the communist vision, the fascist vision and the liberal vision; politics was a battleground between the great visions of the future.

Because we stumble from one crisis to the next, and politicians struggle just to manage day to day.

The only visions are nostalgic, like Trump’s “Make America Great Again.” The only place you get meaningful visions of the future is in the private sector, from people in places like Silicon Valley. And it’s very good, I think, that people like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are thinking seriously about what technology will do to the future of humankind. But it’s very bad that almost no politicians care about these issues, even though artificial intelligence and bioengineering are going to change the world even more than steam engines and trains and radios."
The Future Needs an Upgrade – Handelsblatt Global

Apple Pay now in 20 markets, nabs 90% of all mobile contactless transactions where active | TechCrunch

Check the full article for some Apple Pay Cash details; tangentially, see ‘Pay with Google’ arrives to speed up checkout (The Verge)

"While we are going to have to wait a little longer for Apple to launch payments in iMessage, this weekend, Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s VP of Apple Pay, announced a series of other milestones for the digital wallet and payments service that competes against the likes of Android Pay from Google, Samsung’s wallet and others efforts from retailers and banks.

The advances point to how Apple wants to steal a march when it comes to using phones as a proxy for a card or cash, and there is some anecdotal evidence that it’s working: merchants and others who have partnered with Apple say that Apple Pay is accounting for 90 percent of all mobile contactless transactions globally in markets where it’s available."
Apple Pay now in 20 markets, nabs 90% of all mobile contactless transactions where active | TechCrunch

Andy Rubin's Essential Phone gets $200 price cut - CNET

File under "Future collector's item"

"The heavily hyped, Andy Rubin-backed Essential phone launched late in August. Now, two months later, its price has been cut from $699 to $499.

The news was announced in a Sunday blog post by company president Niccolo de Masi. He said the price cut comes in lieu of the company spending money on an expensive marketing campaign.

"We could have created a massive TV campaign to capture your attention," Masi wrote, "but we think making it easier for people to get their hands on our first products is a better way to get to know us.""
Andy Rubin's Essential Phone gets $200 price cut - CNET

What can Leonardo da Vinci teach us about tech? - Recode

On a related note, see E.O. Wilson’s New Book, “The Origins of Creativity,” Examines the Relationship Between the Humanities and the Sciences (E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation)

"For the past decade and a half, Walter Isaacson has been writing about a big idea: “What is creativity and how do we achieve it?” He says his new book, “Leonardo da Vinci,” is both a biography of the Renaissance artist/inventor a culmination of what he learned writing about people like Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs.

“If you can stand at that intersection between the arts and sciences, or between beauty and engineering, that’s where you’ll be the most creative,” Isaacson said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher.

At the core of Isaacson’s book are da Vinci’s notebooks, which were crammed with ideas about a wide range of topics: Math problems, chemistry formulas, theatrical set designs, inventions and rough sketches of now-famous paintings like The Last Supper. The author said it’s important to not think of da Vinci as “just” an artist."
What can Leonardo da Vinci teach us about tech? - Recode

Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries for Scarce A.I. Talent - The New York Times

Winter is over

"Tech’s biggest companies are placing huge bets on artificial intelligence, banking on things ranging from face-scanning smartphones and conversational coffee-table gadgets to computerized health care and autonomous vehicles. As they chase this future, they are doling out salaries that are startling even in an industry that has never been shy about lavishing a fortune on its top talent.

Typical A.I. specialists, including both Ph.D.s fresh out of school and people with less education and just a few years of experience, can be paid from $300,000 to $500,000 a year or more in salary and company stock, according to nine people who work for major tech companies or have entertained job offers from them. All of them requested anonymity because they did not want to damage their professional prospects."
Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries for Scarce A.I. Talent - The New York Times

Tesla Plant in China May Be a First - The New York Times

Interesting times for Tesla; meanwhile, the Trump administration strives to make the future safe for coal -- see Trump’s electricity shakeup (Axios) for an update
"China already has the world’s largest market for electric cars. Their dominance is a byproduct of the government’s extensive subsidies, part of a broader plan to shift the country away from gasoline-powered cars. The shift would not only curb pollution but also reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil. LMC Automotive, a global consulting firm, estimates that 295,000 battery-electric cars will be sold this year in China, compared with 287,000 in the rest of the world combined.

The gap may widen. LMC predicts that China’s total will nearly triple in the next two years, while the rest of the world’s will merely double. That is because, in part, Chinese government regulations will require automakers starting in 2019 to sell ever-increasing numbers of electric cars and plug-in hybrids if they want to keep selling gasoline cars. China has also begun research on imposing a rule to ban the sale of internal combustion cars someday."
Tesla Plant in China May Be a First - The New York Times

Friday, October 20, 2017

Coda is a next-generation spreadsheet designed to make Excel a thing of the past - The Verge

Tangentially, see Tech pioneers celebrate National Spreadsheet Day (Accounting Today)
"The ability to link documents together, infused with live data that updates automatically, has led Uber to use Coda like a wiki in some cases. In others, engineers build complex views of databases that showcase data with a high degree of granularity, while the marketing team relies on a summary document that only displays key numbers. 
Of course, Coda isn’t the first company to attempt a reinvention of Microsoft Office. Smartsheet, which launched in 2006, has 70,000 businesses using its collaborative, cloud-based spreadsheets. Quip, which was founded in 2012, sold its combined word processor and spreadsheet to Salesforce for $750 million last year. But neither of those apps has become a breakout hit in the fashion of other modern workplace tools, such as Slack or Trello."
Coda is a next-generation spreadsheet designed to make Excel a thing of the past - The Verge

Elon Musk’s East Coast Hyperloop will launch digging in Maryland, state and company say - The Washington Post

In other billionaire adventures, see Rocket tests and wind farms. Jeff Bezos had more on his mind today than just who wants to host an Amazon HQ (The Washington Post) and Jeff Bezos christened Amazon’s largest wind farm while 300 feet in the air (Recode)
"The Maryland Department of Transportation has given conditional approval to Musk’s firm to dig miles of tunnel under state roads to be used for the privately funded project, Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said.

“It’s called a utility permit. That’s all they need to do the digging,” Mayer said. “It’s a private company, privately financed. The costs to the state will be extremely limited, if anything at all. The state has been working with them for multiple months on the permit process.”

The digging will start near Fort Meade, in Anne Arundel County, Mayer said. About 10 miles of tunnel will be under the state-owned portion of MD 295, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, he said."
Elon Musk’s East Coast Hyperloop will launch digging in Maryland, state and company say - The Washington Post

MongoDB finishes up 34% in database IPO | TechCrunch

Irrational exuberance, NoSQL document database edition; also see MongoDB's successful IPO reflects its differences with traditional open source (ZDNet)
"New York-based MongoDB went public on the Nasdaq on Thursday, finishing the day at $32.07, up 34 percent above its IPO price of $24. This is also above the proposed range of $20 to $22, which had been increased from $18 to $20.

The IPO netted $192 million for the company and valued it at about $1.18 billion. By the end of the day’s trading, the market cap was about $1.6 billion, the same as the reported $1.6 billion valuation from its financing round over two years ago.

MongoDB previously raised more than $300 million in equity financing dating back to 2008. Sequoia Capital, Flybridge Capital and Union Square Ventures hold the largest stakes."
MongoDB finishes up 34% in database IPO | TechCrunch

Walmart looks to see if virtual shopping is better than the real thing - The Washington Post

Check the full article for some VR shopping scenarios

"The technology has yet to catch on with the mainstream, so such concepts are still in the gee-whiz stage with no guarantee of boosting sales. But this summer, the company put out an open call for technology firms, venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs to submit their ideas. A panel of five judges — including Arianna Huffington, founder of Thrive Global; and Marc Lore, head of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce operations — whittled the 200 applicants to five winners. They then spent about two months at Walmart’s technology incubator, called Store No 8, coming up with new shopping-centric applications for virtual reality.

Walmart has been experimenting with virtual reality to help train its employees for busy shopping days like Black Friday. It is also testing a program that would allow delivery drivers to walk into customers’ homes and deliver groceries straight to their refrigerators."
Walmart looks to see if virtual shopping is better than the real thing - The Washington Post

Thursday, October 19, 2017

McCain's latest surprise: regulate Facebook - Axios

Check the full post for a preview of the act

"Sen. John McCain knows his time in the public eye is short, so his big statements in recent weeks are especially resonant. Today, McCain will join with two Democrats — Sens. Mark Warner (Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) — to give bipartisan imprimatur to the first of the "Facebook bills," responding to last year's election interference.

Axios has a sneak peek at provisions of the Honest Ads Act, which would increase disclosure requirements for online political ads like the ones Russians surreptitiously bought, putting the rules on par with those for radio and TV ads.

Why it matters: This is the first in a wave of legislative and regulatory proposals we can expect in response to the disclosures that Russian agents used tech platforms to meddle in the 2016 election."
McCain's latest surprise: regulate Facebook - Axios

Michael Flynn, Nicki Minaj shared content from this Tennessee GOP account. But it wasn’t real. It was Russian. - The Washington Post

Later in the article: "Bots and trolls are most effective, experts say, when they find ways to interact online with actual people — and especially those with large followings." Also see Twitter Was Warned Repeatedly About This Fake Account Run By A Russian Troll Farm And Refused To Take It Down (BuzzFeed)
"Russian operatives used a fake Twitter account that claimed to speak for Tennessee Republicans to persuade American politicians, celebrities and journalists to share select content with their own massive lists of followers, two people familiar with the matter said.

The list of prominent people who tweeted out links from the account, @Ten_GOP, which Twitter shut down in August, includes political figures such as Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, celebrities such as Nicki Minaj and James Woods, and media personalities such as Ann Coulter and Chris Hayes."
Michael Flynn, Nicki Minaj shared content from this Tennessee GOP account. But it wasn’t real. It was Russian. - The Washington Post

DeepMind's Superpowerful AI Sets Its Sights on Drug Discovery - Bloomberg

Also see Google’s A.I. Has Made Some Pretty Huge Leaps This Week (Slate) and AlphaGo Zero Shows Machines Can Become Superhuman Without Any Help (MIT Technology Review)
"AlphaGo Zero used one-twelfth of the computing power of the version that beat 18-time world champion Go player Lee Sedol in 2016. It ran on just four Tensor Processing Units (TPUs), chipsets optimized for machine learning that Google has created for its data centers, compared with 48 on the previous version of AlphaGo.

Hassabis said the company is now planning to apply an algorithm based on AlphaGo Zero to other domains with real-world applications, starting with protein folding. To build drugs against various viruses, researchers need to know how proteins fold. "
DeepMind's Superpowerful AI Sets Its Sights on Drug Discovery - Bloomberg

Everyone’s Mad at Google and Sundar Pichai Has to Fix It - Bloomberg

From an extensive Google reality check

"If Elon Musk wanted to kvetch directly to Google, he’d probably go directly to his old philosophical sparring partner, Larry Page. Which brings up the main thing that sets Pichai apart from most of his CEO peers. It’s not his humility, diplomacy, or enthusiasm for AI. It’s that he has a boss.
Page always managed to delegate the political and managerial messes that Pichai now has to confront. Page is also largely invisible to the media; his last interview was two years ago. (He declined to speak for this story.) Yet he and Brin still control 51 percent of voting shares in Alphabet. One executive who recently left Google describes Pichai’s role more as a chief operating officer; another equates it with working for a “family company.”"
Everyone’s Mad at Google and Sundar Pichai Has to Fix It - Bloomberg

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

IBM's Q3 gets boost from z System mainframe; As-a-service annual run rate hits $9.4 billion | ZDNet

Not enough to prevent IBM's 22nd consecutive quarter of declining revenue, however

"But perhaps the biggest takeaway is that IBM's stronger-than-expected revenue got a boost from an old standby--the mainframe. IBM's latest z System is designed to bolster security and encrypt data in transit. That message is finding a market given the spate of data breaches. Customers were obviously interested as z System revenue was up 64 percent from a year ago.

CEO Ginny Rometty said z System adoption was "enthusiastic." At the heart of IBM Z is an encryption engine that will encrypt data associated with any application, cloud service or database."
IBM's Q3 gets boost from z System mainframe; As-a-service annual run rate hits $9.4 billion | ZDNet

Microsoft claims Windows 10 ARM battery life will be a ‘game-changer’ for laptops - The Verge

Meanwhile in the waning Wintel world: Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 claims 70% more battery life than MacBook Pros, 45% more pixels (9to5Mac)

"Microsoft first unveiled its plans for ARM-powered Windows laptops last year. The new devices will be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, and will support traditional desktop apps thanks to an emulator in Windows 10. While Qualcomm previously promised laptops before the end of the year, we haven’t heard much about them yet. Asus, HP, and Lenovo are all preparing devices, and it seems like battery life will be a key selling point.

During a Qualcomm summit in Hong Kong this week, Microsoft and Qualcomm dropped some hints at what to expect from new ARM-powered laptops. Trusted Reviews reports that Qualcomm is still committed to getting devices in the market in December, and that Microsoft is promising multi-day battery life. “To be frank, it’s actually beyond our expectations,” says Pete Bernard, a program manager at Microsoft. “We set a high bar for [our developers], and we’re now beyond that. It’s the kind of battery life where I use it on a daily basis. I don’t take my charger with me. I may charge it every couple of days or so. It’s that kind of battery life.”"
Microsoft claims Windows 10 ARM battery life will be a ‘game-changer’ for laptops - The Verge

Google Pixel 2 review: It's biggest problem has nothing to do with the phone - The Washington Post

Also see Google’s Pixel 2 Smartphone Is a Powerful Extravagance (NYT)

"There’s also one big problem with the Pixel 2 that has nothing to do with the phone itself: It’s relatively hard to get. Google has agreed again to make the Pixel 2 available through just one carrier, Verizon. While consumers can also get the phone unlocked through Google’s own website, it is, generally speaking, a phone that must be sought out. It’s not going to present itself to you in stores or kiosks that aren’t Verizon’s, and that puts it at a disadvantage — particularly among those who want to comparison shop in stores.

Overall, Google's infused the Pixel 2 with smart software that complements its no-fuss but high-quality hardware. Google's home court advantage shines through and it has made two of the best phones out there. Those looking for an Android phone that takes full advantage of the operating system will love the Pixel 2 — that is, if you're willing to go out there looking for it."
Google Pixel 2 review: It's biggest problem has nothing to do with the phone - The Washington Post

How the Frightful Five Put Start-Ups in a Lose-Lose Situation - The New York Times

Compete different; for a different perspective, see Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook will all go away within 50 years, says author (MarketWatch)
"So if you’re worried about the power of the Frightful Five — Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft — just look at how IBM, Hewlett-Packard or monopoly-era Microsoft fell to earth. They were all victims of “creative destruction,” of an “innovator’s dilemma,” the theories that bolster Silicon Valley’s vision of itself as a roiling sea of pathbreaking upstarts, where the very thing that made you big also makes you vulnerable.

Well, maybe not this time.

The technology industry is now a playground for giants. Where 10 or 20 years ago we looked to start-ups as a font of future wonders, today the energy and momentum have shifted almost completely to the big guys. In addition to the many platforms they own already, one or more of the Five are on their way to owning artificial intelligence, voice assistants, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, home automation, and every other cool and crazy thing that will rule tomorrow."
How the Frightful Five Put Start-Ups in a Lose-Lose Situation - The New York Times

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Facebook acquires anonymous teen compliment app tbh, will let it run | TechCrunch

Tbd if tbh is part of Facebook's new plan for elections >= 2018...

"Facebook wants tbh to be its next Instagram. Today, Facebook announced it’s acquiring positivity-focused polling startup tbh and will allow it to operate somewhat independently with its own brand.

tbh had scored 5 million downloads and 2.5 million daily active users in the past nine weeks with its app that lets people anonymously answer kind-hearted multiple-choice questions about friends who then receive the poll results as compliments. You see questions like “Best to bring to a party?,” “Their perseverance is admirable?” and “Could see becoming a poet?” with your uploaded contacts on the app as answer choices."
Facebook acquires anonymous teen compliment app tbh, will let it run | TechCrunch

Google created machine-learning software that can program machine-learning software. (Slate)

On a related note, the cover of the latest issue of the New Yorker:

"The company’s A.I. project, AutoML, has successfully taught machine-learning software how to program machine-learning software. In some cases, the machines programmed better A.I. software than even the Google researchers could design. AutoML ran a test comparing a human-programmed image identification system to a machine-programmed one. The program created by the machine was able to score 43 percent on a task that required it to find objects in a picture. The best that the human-made software could score was 39 percent. Yet the AutoML software can only write programming for relatively basic A.I. tasks at the moment.

The hope is that the software will be able to perform the tedious yet highly complicated tasks that A.I. engineers are loathe to spend their time on—a bit like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice enchanting brooms to fetch water for him. This could theoretically free up engineers to pursue more ambitious projects that would otherwise require an exorbitant amount of time and labor. Researchers predict that advances in this field could accelerate the pace at which A.I. is implemented in other industries, such as health care."
Google created machine-learning software that can program machine-learning software.

Tesla's Former Battery Director Joins Farming Startup Plenty - Bloomberg

In other tech foodie news, see Kimbal Musk Wants to Feed America, Silicon Valley-Style (NYT)

"Tesla Inc.’s former director of battery technology has joined Plenty Inc. to lead the vertical farming startup’s plan to build indoor growing rooms around the world.

Kurt Kelty, who joined Tesla in 2006 and left earlier this year, was one of the longest-serving executives at the carmaker led by Elon Musk. He joins SoftBank Group Corp.-backed Plenty as the senior vice president of operations and market development. Kelty had previously spent more than 14 years at Panasonic Corp."
Tesla's Former Battery Director Joins Farming Startup Plenty - Bloomberg

Facebook Is Looking for Employees With National Security Clearances - Bloomberg

Tangentially, see As U.S. Confronts Internet’s Disruptions, China Feels Vindicated (NYT)

"Facebook Inc. is looking to hire people who have national security clearances, a move the company thinks is necessary to prevent foreign powers from manipulating future elections through its social network, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Workers with such clearance can access information classified by the U.S. government. Facebook plans to use these people -- and their ability to receive government information about potential threats -- to search more proactively for questionable social media campaigns ahead of elections, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is sensitive. A Facebook spokesman declined to comment."
Facebook Is Looking for Employees With National Security Clearances - Bloomberg

How Valuable Is a Unicorn? Maybe Not as Much as It Claims to Be - The New York Times

A unicorn reality check

"In Palo Alto, Calif., just down the road from many of the biggest tech companies and the most influential venture capitalists, a professor at Stanford University has quietly been working on a project to crunch the valuation numbers behind some of these private companies.

Ilya A. Strebulaev and another professor working with him, Will Gornall of the University of British Columbia, have come to a startling conclusion: The average unicorn is worth half the headline price tag that is put out after each new valuation."
How Valuable Is a Unicorn? Maybe Not as Much as It Claims to Be - The New York Times

Monday, October 16, 2017

This Guy Says He’s The First Person To Attempt Editing His DNA With CRISPR (BuzzFeed)

Perhaps wait until this technique is out of beta; on a related note, see An anarchist takes on the drug industry — by teaching patients to make their own meds (STAT)

"“I want to live in a world where people get drunk and instead of giving themselves tattoos, they’re like, ‘I’m drunk, I’m going to CRISPR myself,’” said Zayner, who has a few tattoos of his own, in an interview with BuzzFeed News. “It sounds crazy, but I think that would be a pretty interesting world to live in for sure.”

Under the Food and Drug Administration’s rules, his experimenting appears to be legal — or at least, not illegal. But it’s less clear to what extent, if any, Zayner is responsible for any harm to people who copy him. It’s a gray area that the FDA doesn’t regulate, and may become more pressing as amateur scientists disseminate their experiments, methods, and equipment online."
This Guy Says He’s The First Person To Attempt Editing His DNA With CRISPR

Inside X, Google’s Moonshot Factory - The Atlantic

From a ~7,000-word Google X profile
"These ideas might sound too random to contain a unifying principle. But they do. Each X idea adheres to a simple three-part formula. First, it must address a huge problem; second, it must propose a radical solution; third, it must employ a relatively feasible technology. In other words, any idea can be a moonshot—unless it’s frivolous, small-bore, or impossible. 
The purpose of X is not to solve Google’s problems; thousands of people are already doing that. Nor is its mission philanthropic. Instead X exists, ultimately, to create world-changing companies that could eventually become the next Google. The enterprise considers more than 100 ideas each year, in areas ranging from clean energy to artificial intelligence. But only a tiny percentage become “projects,” with full-time staff working on them. It’s too soon to know whether many (or any) of these shots will reach the moon: X was formed in 2010, and its projects take years; critics note a shortage of revenue to date. But several projects—most notably Waymo, its self-driving-car company, recently valued at $70 billion by one Wall Street firm—look like they may."
Inside X, Google’s Moonshot Factory - The Atlantic

Hackers have turned Politifact’s website into a trap for your PC - The Washington Post

Truth and coin sequences

"The hack was discovered Friday by security researcher Troy Mursch, who noticed that visiting Politifact.com caused his computer's CPU to run at its maximum capacity.

The anomaly left telltale signs of Coin Hive — a piece of code that can be installed on websites that, when active, diverts unused computational power on visitors' computers toward generating a Bitcoin-like currency called Monero. Under ordinary circumstances, said Mursch, Coin Hive is used by some websites as an alternative to advertising. But in the case of PolitiFact, somebody has programmed the site to run multiple versions of Coin Hive simultaneously, basically bringing any visitor's computer to a processing halt."
Hackers have turned Politifact’s website into a trap for your PC - The Washington Post

Tesla’s New Car Smell – Monday Note

Final paragraphs from a Tesla reality check

"But perhaps Tesla’s greatest challenge isn’t within the company. It’s the “Mary and Carlos” threat. Mary Bara is GM’s CEO; Carlos Ghosn is the emperor of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi-Avtovaz conglomerate that recently jumped to the #1 position in the auto industry. Both industry chieftains now wield credible competitors to Tesla’s Model 3: the Chevy Bolt and the newer Nissan Leaf. The Bolt is in production, I see it in parking lots around Palo Alto, and the newer Nissan Leaf, promised for early 2018, succeeds the unsung, world’s best-selling electric car, the “older” Leaf introduced in 2010.
The Bolt and the Leaf come from experienced manufacturers. Elon Musk ran the table with with his earlier Model S and X creations. But now he may be facing competent competition."
Tesla’s New Car Smell – Monday Note

Friday, October 13, 2017

What Facebook Did to American Democracy - The Atlantic

Final paragraphs

"The information systems that people use to process news have been rerouted through Facebook, and in the process, mostly broken and hidden from view. It wasn’t just liberal bias that kept the media from putting everything together. Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars that was spent during the election cycle came in the form of “dark ads.”

The truth is that while many reporters knew some things that were going on on Facebook, no one knew everything that was going on on Facebook, not even Facebook. And so, during the most significant shift in the technology of politics since the television, the first draft of history is filled with undecipherable whorls and empty pages. Meanwhile, the 2018 midterms loom."
What Facebook Did to American Democracy - The Atlantic

Opportunity for everyone (Google Keyword blog)

Excerpt from a Sundar Pichai post; also see Google Offers Help to Industries It Helps to Destroy (Wired) and Google Unveils Job Training Initiative With $1 Billion Pledge (NYT)
"First, Grow with Google is there to give anyone in America the tools and training they need to get a job, for free. We understand there’s uncertainty and even concern about the pace of technological change. But we know that technology will be an engine of America’s growth for years to come.
We’ve launched an online hub—google.com/grow—where job seekers, teachers, local business owners, and developers can get significant training and professional certificates.
So if you’re looking to learn or teach the skills that employers value, look up Applied Digital Skills. We’ve been workshopping this with 27,000 students at middle and high schools. It teaches you the basics of working with tech in the modern world: from spreadsheets to email. It’s now available to everyone, and we’re looking to expand it to community colleges and vocational programs. We’re also launching a G Suite certification that will allow people to prove their proficiency in essential workplace tools."
Opportunity for everyone

Twitter breaks its silence on McGowan suspension | TechCrunch

Also see #WomenBoycottTwitter, Supporting Rose McGowan (NYT)

"At this point it would appear that Twitter’s sense of irony runs very deep indeed. And/or its store of hypocrisy. Because, as others have previously pointed out, the company has long used a policy of not commenting on individual accounts to shield itself from accountability — e.g. from criticism that it’s providing a platform to nazis and white supremacists.

Yet now, in this instance when it’s facing a high profile storm of criticism for selectively silencing McGowan (a verified Twitter user with more than 750k followers) and for simultaneously failing to silence the abuse flowing over its own platform, it’s suddenly okay breaking its own rule as it tries to extricate itself from blame and criticism that it’s also complicit in enabling the abuse of women.

Safe to say, this really is what leading from behind looks like."
Twitter breaks its silence on McGowan suspension | TechCrunch

Google is essentially building an anti-Amazon alliance, and Target is the latest to join - Recode

Amazon competitors welcome Home; for an overall Google reality check, see Google and the Disintermediation of Search (Tech.pinions)
"On Thursday, Target and Google announced that they are expanding what was a years-old delivery partnership from a small experiment in a handful of cities to the entire continental U.S.

The expansion will allow Target to become a retail partner in Google’s voice-shopping initiative, which lets owners of the Google Home “smart” speaker order items through voice commands like owners of the Echo can do from Amazon.

The announcement comes seven weeks after Walmart inked a similar deal with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of products through the service. Other big-box retailers like Home Depot are also on board."
Google is essentially building an anti-Amazon alliance, and Target is the latest to join - Recode

How Facebook’s Ad System Works - The New York Times

For a broader online advertising reality check, see Internet Advertising: Technology, Ethics, and a Serious Difference of Opinion (Communications of the ACM)

"In early September, Facebook revealed that it had identified about $100,000 in ads purchased on its social network by a Russian company linked to the Kremlin. Distributed between June 2015 and May of this year, the more than 3,000 ads added to evidence that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

Similar ad purchases by Russian agents were also uncovered on other internet services like Google and Twitter.

The online ads in question do not necessarily fit the traditional idea of advertising, and Facebook’s ads are particularly unusual."
How Facebook’s Ad System Works - The New York Times

In Surprise Move, Samsung CEO to Step Down After Record Profit - Bloomberg

Manage different; also see From Jail to Retirement, Samsung Loses Top Execs (Bloomberg)

"The chief executive officer of Samsung Electronics Co. is stepping down in a surprise resignation after decades at the company, saying the business needed new leadership following a bribery scandal that led to the imprisonment of its de facto chief.

Kwon Oh-hyun, who also serves as co-vice chairman, announced his retirement on Friday as the Suwon-based company reported record operating income of 14.5 trillion won ($12.8 billion) on booming demand for displays and memory chips. He said the company faces an “unprecedented crisis” despite the financial success."
In Surprise Move, Samsung CEO to Step Down After Record Profit - Bloomberg

Tech Giants, Once Seen as Saviors, Are Now Viewed as Threats - The New York Times

Tumultuous tech titan times
"The election is far from the only area of concern. Tech companies have accrued a tremendous amount of power and influence. Amazon determines how people shop, Google how they acquire knowledge, Facebook how they communicate. All of them are making decisions about who gets a digital megaphone and who should be unplugged from the web.

Their amount of concentrated authority resembles the divine right of kings, and is sparking a backlash that is still gathering force. 
“For 10 years, the arguments in tech were about which chief executive was more like Jesus. Which one was going to run for president. Who did the best job convincing the work force to lean in,” said Scott Galloway, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “Now sentiments are shifting. The worm has turned.”"
Tech Giants, Once Seen as Saviors, Are Now Viewed as Threats - The New York Times

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Why we switched from Slack to Workplace by Facebook (Clevy.io CTO Francois Sechet)

Now would probably be a good time for Slack to IPO...

"Workplace is just like regular facebook in almost all possible ways — but private to you and your team. It means that you get a personal wall, pictures, events, groups, live video, screen sharing, audio and video calls… basically, a little, closed facebook, with your logo in the top left corner.
This means that you get the same tool you already know, with the same features, except in a smaller, closed environment, at work. Onboarding is extremely intuitive (basically non-existent if you already opened facebook before).
While with Slack you have to add a lot of things if you want more than just a glorified chat app, in Workplace everything is builtin from scratch. You get everything you possibly need for your internal communication and much more. Pick Workplace and be done, basically. Did I mention it is very inexpensive?"
Why we switched from Slack to Workplace by Facebook

Inventing the Future | Oculus

From an extensive AR reality check; tangentially, see Tim Cook says the tech “doesn’t exist” for quality AR glasses yet (Ars Technica)
"While AR glasses have the potential to be one of the most important technologies of the twenty-first century, that won’t happen unless some very challenging practical constraints are overcome. They must be light and comfortable enough to wear all day, run off a wearable battery for many hours per charge without getting uncomfortably hot, work in full sunlight and in darkness, and have excellent visual and audio quality, both virtual and real. They must be completely socially acceptable – in fact, they need to be stylish. They need an entirely new user interface. Finally, all the rendering, display, audio, computer vision, communication, and interaction functionality needed to support virtual objects, telepresence, and perceptual/mental superpowers must come together in a system that operates within the above constraints. [...] 
There is no combination of existing technologies that meet all those requirements today. The honest truth is that the laws of physics may make it impossible to ever build true all-day AR glasses; there’s no Moore’s Law for optics, batteries, weight, or thermal dissipation. My guess is that it is in fact possible (obviously, or I wouldn’t be trying to make it happen), and if it is possible, I think it’s highly likely that all-day AR glasses will happen within the next ten years, but it is an astonishingly difficult technical challenge on half a dozen axes, and a host of breakthroughs are going to be needed."
Inventing the Future | Oculus

Facebook announces a wireless $200 virtual-reality headset - The Washington Post

See this Oculus post for more details

"Facebook dropped a bombshell on the virtual-reality world Wednesday: a $200 virtual-reality headset that doesn't require wires or a smartphone to work.

The headset could go a long way toward helping Facebook get virtual reality into the hands of a “a billion people” — a (time-frame-free) goal chief executive Mark Zuckerberg set Wednesday at a developers conference hosted by its VR company, Oculus. Virtual reality has been a major focus for Facebook and other major tech firms such as Microsoft and HTC, but consumers haven't been quite as enthusiastic. The new headset, however, addresses two major problems analysts have said stand in the way of adoption: high prices and a complicated setup process."
Facebook announces a wireless $200 virtual-reality headset - The Washington Post

Hive Switches From Mining Gold to Bitcoin, Surges Six Six-Fold - Bloomberg

In other bitcoin news, see Betting on bitcoin (Boston Globe)

"Frank Giustra, the Canadian mining maverick who amassed a fortune building what would become one of the world’s largest gold companies, is digging for another kind of gold: cryptocurrencies.

The company he’s backed, Vancouver-based Hive Blockchain Technologies Inc., is among the first publicly traded stocks to provide exposure to crypto mining -- the vast data crunching needed to verify the blockchain and the volatile currencies they produce like bitcoin and ether.

So far, his decision to dig for data servers has paid off. Hive’s shares have soared about 540 percent, giving it a market value of C$437 million ($350 million), since it took over the listing of Leeta Gold Corp. and began trading on Sept. 18. After only three days, the company raised C$30 million in a share sale led by GMP Securities LP."
Hive Switches From Mining Gold to Bitcoin, Surges Six Six-Fold - Bloomberg

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

For Time Inc.’s Magazines, Fewer Copies Is the Way Forward - WSJ

Running out of Time

"The publisher is cutting back on the circulation and frequency of some of its biggest titles, part of a far-reaching cost-reduction and restructuring program meant to ensure the profitability of its core brands.

The company gradually will reduce the weekly circulation of its flagship Time magazine by one-third to 2 million copies. That move is partly a recognition that it isn’t worth it to keep printing as many promotional copies. It also is aimed at focusing on a core audience considered more valuable to advertisers.

Time Inc. also is reducing the print frequency of seven titles, including Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly and Fortune. The move is based, in part, on its research showing that consumers have less time for leaning back with magazines."
For Time Inc.’s Magazines, Fewer Copies Is the Way Forward - WSJ

Zuckerberg apologizes for his tone-deaf VR cartoon tour of Puerto Rico devastation | TechCrunch

The apology: "One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy. My goal here was to show how VR can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world. I also wanted to share the news of our partnership with the Red Cross to help with the recovery. Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone this offended."

"Mark Zuckerberg is apologizing today after his Facebook Live video discussing his company’s efforts to aid Puerto Rico’s recovery raised some serious eyebrows.

Yesterday, Zuckerberg used the company’s VR app Spaces to tour through an NPR-produced 360 video of Puerto Rico. Zuck’s cartoon avatar directed attention towards various features of Puerto Rico’s destruction while another Facebook executive remarked “it’s crazy to feel like you’re in the middle of it.”

The video induced quite a few cringes as the tech billionaire visited Puerto Rico’s destruction inside virtual reality as a cartoon."
Zuckerberg apologizes for his tone-deaf VR cartoon tour of Puerto Rico devastation | TechCrunch

Google’s Home Mini needed a software patch to stop some of them from recording everything - The Verge

For more details, see Google is nerfing all Home Minis because mine spied on everything I said 24/7 [Update] (Android Police)

"Smart speakers like the Google Home Mini are designed to only listen for a specific wake word — in this case it’s “Hey Google” or “Ok Google.” Only then do their microphones record what you’re saying it, transmit it to the cloud, and try to answer your question. But there is usually a way to just hit a button and ask the embedded assistant a question. On the Mini, it’s holding your finger down on the top of it.

That seems to be the rub (pardon the pun) with Russakovskii’s Mini: it thought that somebody was holding its finger down on the top and so was randomly activating and recording. The good news is that the lights turned on to indicate it was listening, but the bad news is that it didn’t make an audible tone, so it took a trip through the Home’s search history to discover the error."
Google’s Home Mini needed a software patch to stop some of them from recording everything - The Verge

How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for U.S. Secrets - The New York Times

A software product category existential crisis in the making

"The N.S.A. bans its analysts from using Kaspersky antivirus at the agency, in large part because the agency has exploited antivirus software for its own foreign hacking operations and knows the same technique is used by its adversaries.

“Antivirus is the ultimate back door,” Blake DarchĂ©, a former N.S.A. operator and co-founder of Area 1 Security. “It provides consistent, reliable and remote access that can be used for any purpose, from launching a destructive attack to conducting espionage on thousands or even millions of users.”"
How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for U.S. Secrets - The New York Times

The Frightful Five Want to Rule Entertainment. They Are Hitting Limits. - The New York Times

On a related note, see Apple Joins Forces With Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television (NYT)

"I’ve spent the last few years studying the rise of these giants. As tensions over their power reached a high boil this summer — Facebook and Russia, Google and sexism, Amazon and Whole Foods — I began thinking more about the nature and consequence of their power, and talking to everyone I could find about these companies. Among them were people in the tech industry, as well as many in other power centers: Washington, Hollywood, the media, the health care and automotive businesses, and other corners of society that may soon be ensnared by one or more of the Five.

This is the first of several columns in which I’ll take measure of the Five. Here, I assess their efforts to infiltrate entertainment — their plans to push deeper into the business of movies, TV and music, and the fears of cultural domination those moves have provoked."
The Frightful Five Want to Rule Entertainment. They Are Hitting Limits. - The New York Times

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

MongoDB could be worth less than $1 billion at IPO - Business Insider

Pre-IPO investor transaction durability not guaranteed...

"At the mid price, MongoDB would raise about $152 million and be worth about $930 million, according to PitchBook.

That's quite a bit shy of its last valuation as a private company of $1.6 billion.

The New York-based database company has been a darling of the VC world. It raised over $311 million from private investors with later investors paying as much as $16.72/share, according to PitchBook (and earning dividends on those shares)."
MongoDB could be worth less than $1 billion at IPO - Business Insider

Google, Facebook and Twitter Scramble to Hold Washington at Bay - Bloomberg

Pretty sure there will still be ample "American rage" for the Russians (and others) to harvest for the 2018 election and beyond

"Inside the company, leaders are dismayed by how the public is interpreting its involvement in the Russia investigation, according to a person familiar with their thinking. Executives fear that Facebook’s work for the presidential campaigns is being re-framed as partisan, for example, even though it offers the same services to any major advertiser.

Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer, defended the company from media critics who say it should have found a technical solution to the problem of fake news. It’s not that simple -- and any quick solution could end up being ideologically biased, he said in a series of recent posts on Twitter.

Facebook, Twitter and Google are cooperating on issues related to the Russian political ads. A person familiar with the effort said it was similar to how the three firms would work together on difficult industrywide issues, such as child pornography or content from terrorist groups."
Google, Facebook and Twitter Scramble to Hold Washington at Bay - Bloomberg

China Hastens the World Toward an Electric-Car Future - The New York Times

Interesting times for the global auto industry

"If China succeeds — and there is no guarantee — Beijing’s policy makers will be front and center reimagining the global auto industry, a business that has helped define communities, industries and people’s aspirations for more than a century. It is a role that was almost inconceivable just a few decades ago, when China was more closely associated with a different type of green transportation: the black, classic Flying Pigeon bicycle.

China feels it has little choice in pressing forward. While it is true that electric vehicles fit neatly into China’s plan to become the world leader in sci-fi technology like artificial intelligence, the country also fears a dark future — one where its cities remain cloaked in smog and it is beholden to foreign countries to sell it the oil it needs."
China Hastens the World Toward an Electric-Car Future - The New York Times

How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics - The New York Times

On related notes, see Google Finds Accounts Connected to Russia Bought Election AdsMicrosoft is reviewing its records for signs of potential Russian meddling during the 2016 election (Recode), and Pierre Omidyar: 6 ways social media has become a direct threat to democracy (Washington Post)
"A New York Times examination of hundreds of those posts shows that one of the most powerful weapons that Russian agents used to reshape American politics was the anger, passion and misinformation that real Americans were broadcasting across social media platforms.

The Russian pages — with names like “Being Patriotic,” “Secured Borders” and “Blacktivist” — cribbed complaints about federal agents from one conservative website, and a gauzy article about a veteran who became an entrepreneur from People magazine. They took descriptions and videos of police beatings from genuine YouTube and Facebook accounts and reposted them, sometimes lightly edited for maximum effect."
How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics - The New York Times