Thursday, March 30, 2017

Microsoft touts Microsoft-customized edition of Samsung Galaxy S8 | ZDNet

One way for Microsoft to get more engaged in the smartphone business; tbd how Cortana and Bixby will get along

"Details as to exactly what "Microsoft Edition" means are scarce. But based on an email I received from a Microsoft spokesperson, I believe this means these phones will need to be unboxed inside a Microsoft Store, connected to the Microsoft Store WiFi and automatically populated with Microsoft apps, including Office, OneDrive, Cortana, Outlook and more Microsoft apps.

(As an Android phone user who runs many Microsoft apps on her phone, this doesn't seem as crazy to me as it might sound. The more bizarre part, at least from my standpoint, will be seeing Android phones for sale in Microsoft Stores.)"
Microsoft touts Microsoft-customized edition of Samsung Galaxy S8 | ZDNet

Samsung is beating Microsoft in the battle to turn a phone into a PC - The Verge

Getting less kludgy, but still tbd if many people actually want a phone that can "turn into a PC"

"Continuum has also failed to progress because very few applications on Windows 10 Mobile support it. App developers have to specifically build support for Continuum, and most haven’t bothered. DeX on the other hand will support regular Android apps out of the box, and even companies like Adobe and Microsoft have worked with Samsung directly to optimize their apps for larger displays. That means that Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will all run just as well on DeX as they would on Continuum. Microsoft Office integration is a key selling point for Continuum, and Samsung now has that exact selling point with Microsoft’s help.

One of the big advantages DeX has over Continuum is fairly basic. Samsung has implemented its own windowing system in parallel to the one found in Android Nougat. That means you can actually multitask with apps in DeX, unlike Continuum which restricts you to one app on screen at any given time. It’s stunning that Microsoft, the company behind Windows which brought windowed apps to the masses, has still not implemented this basic user interface in Continuum. Samsung even added the ability to unlock the PC-like interface through facial recognition (like Windows Hello) on the Galaxy S8. The angle of the DeX dock means you can simply look at the phone and it will unlock the desktop interface."
Samsung is beating Microsoft in the battle to turn a phone into a PC - The Verge

How Do We Defeat Online Trolls? - The Atlantic

See The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News Online (Pew Research Center) for the full report

"“Of course, this is already happening, just out of sight of most of us,” Etlinger said, referring to the use of hidden channels online. “The worst outcome is that we end up with a kind of Potemkin internet in which everything looks reasonably bright and sunny, which hides a more troubling and less transparent reality.”

The uncomfortable truth is that humans like trolling. It’s easy for people to stay anonymous while they harass, pester, and bully other people online—and it’s hard for platforms to design systems to stop them. Hard for two reasons: One, because of the “ever-expanding scale of internet discourse and its accelerating complexity,” as Pew puts it. And, two, because technology companies seem to have little incentive to solve this problem for people."
How Do We Defeat Online Trolls? - The Atlantic

Tesla's Valuation Could Overtake Ford Any Day Now (Buzzfeed)

Also see Tesla (TSLA) is now more valuable than Ford and why it doesn’t matter (Electrek), which notes "... if you want to make a comparison, it’s closer to an automaker who also owns an oil company and everything in between, like the refineries and gas stations."

"Tesla, the loss-making electric car company that sold about 84,000 vehicles last year, is now worth about as much as Ford, which sold 6.7 million cars in 2016 and turned a $4.6 billion profit.

Valuations for the two companies converged in recent months, as Ford slid and Tesla surged. By Wednesday afternoon, Tesla was worth $45.2 billion and Ford's was valued at $46.6 billion, according to Bloomberg data. Tesla could overtake Ford any day now, and become America's second most valuable car company. GM, the current number one, is worth about $54 billion.

How wildly optimistic are investors about electric cars? Based on its current market price, Tesla is worth about $600,000 per vehicle sold in 2016, while Ford is worth about $7,000, according to calculations by Barclays analyst Brian Johnson."
Tesla's Valuation Could Overtake Ford Any Day Now

Google finally releases Calendar app for iPad | 9to5Mac

See Calendar on iPad: Ready for Business (G Suite blog) for more details
"Google today announced the release of its Calendar app for iPad, which was previously only available for iPhone, Android smartphones and tablets and on the web.

The iPad version of Calendar will be a familiar UI to anyone that has used the app for iPhone, and also borrows from some of the user interface elements Google has implemented with its tablet app for Android. Google notes, however, that the app has been specifically optimized for iPad, noting that you’ll be able to search from the iPad home screen using Spotlight Search with the app."
Google finally releases Calendar app for iPad | 9to5Mac

Mossberg: Yes, you’ve still got mail - Recode

Excerpt from an email reality check; also see Journalists should use email more — and Google and Facebook less — to reach readers (Recode)

"Like radio, email isn’t dying, it’s just changing. Over the past decade or so it’s become much more like postal mail. It’s not the place you expect to find a greeting from a friend or even a timely update from a professional colleague. Instead, it’s a mix of junk mail you hate and discard, plus bills and missives from businesses you also hate but can’t discard. And the junk mail is the bulk of it.

It’s also outright dangerous. Email remains a key vector for network attacks by criminals, hostile states and surveillance agencies. It’s a major way bad actors get unsuspecting people to click on links or images or attachments that hide malware that can penetrate networks and steal identities."
Mossberg: Yes, you’ve still got mail - Recode

Jeff Bezos Is Now the World's Second Richest Person - Bloomberg

Still a ways to go before catching Bill Gates (currently $86B)

"Bezos, 53, added $1.5 billion to his fortune as Amazon.com Inc. rose $18.32 on Wednesday, the day after the e-commerce giant said it plans to buy Dubai-based online retailer Souq.com. Bezos has a net worth of $75.6 billion on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, $700 million more than Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Buffett and $1.3 billion above Ortega, the founder of Inditex S.A. and Europe’s richest person.

Amazon’s founder has added $10.2 billion this year to his wealth and $7 billion since the global equities rally began following the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president on Nov. 8. The rise is the third biggest on the Bloomberg index in 2017, after Chinese parcel-delivery billionaire Wang Wei’s $18.4 billion gain and an $11.4 billion rise for Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg."
Jeff Bezos Is Now the World's Second Richest Person - Bloomberg

Chase Had Ads on 400,000 Sites. Then on Just 5,000. Same Results. - The New York Times

Tangentially, see Why the YouTube Ad Boycott Could Cost Google $750 Million (Fortune)

"The change illustrates the new skepticism with which major marketers are approaching online ad platforms and the automated technology placing their brands on millions of websites. In recent years, advertisers have increasingly shunned buying ads on individual sites in favor of cheaply targeting groups of people across the web based on their browsing habits, a process known as programmatic advertising — enabling, say, a Gerber ad to show up on a local mother’s blog, or a purse in an online shopping cart to follow a person around the internet for weeks.

But as the risks around the far reaches of the web have been cast into stark relief, some advertisers are questioning the value of showing up on hundreds of thousands of unknown sites, and wondering whether millions of appearances actually translate into more sales."
Chase Had Ads on 400,000 Sites. Then on Just 5,000. Same Results. - The New York Times

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Waze gets into the order-ahead business with Dunkin' Donuts - Chicago Tribune

Tbd when your self-driving car will be able to anticipate your needs and order ahead

"Waze's traffic navigation app already shows ads prodding drivers to swing by fast-food joints like Dunkin' Donuts and Taco Bell. Now it's adding a new item to its menu — the ability to place orders at some shops.

On Tuesday, the Google-owned app will start letting drivers purchase coffee and other items from Dunkin' Donuts for pickup along their way. It's the first time that Waze has offered this kind of "order ahead" option, but unlikely to be the last.

If all goes well with the Dunkin' Donuts test, Waze plans to team up with other merchants so its millions of users can order pizza, reserve parking spaces, fill prescriptions and even buy groceries without having to open another app on their phones."
Waze gets into the order-ahead business with Dunkin' Donuts - Chicago Tribune

China’s Tencent bought a 5 percent stake in Tesla - Recode

Tangentially, see Trump Is a Chinese Agent (Thomas L. Friedman in the NYT)

"Tencent, owner of the massive Chinese messaging app WeChat, has bought a 5 percent stake in Tesla, according to a filing published Tuesday. The company paid $1.8 billion for the stake, about 8.2 million shares.

China is an important market for Tesla. In fact, CEO Elon Musk expects China to be one of its biggest markets in the future. The carmaker’s China sales tripled to more than $1 billion last year, accounting for 15 percent of its annual $7 billion in revenue.

This is Tencent’s second major U.S. investment after Snap (formerly known as Snapchat). But it’s also the second electric vehicle manufacturer in which Tencent has acquired a stake. It led an $86 million round in Nio, previously known as NextEV, along with Baidu earlier this month."
China’s Tencent bought a 5 percent stake in Tesla - Recode

Republicans voted to roll back landmark FCC privacy rules. Here’s what you need to know. - The Washington Post

Check the full article for details and implications; also see this page for one of many crowdfunded initiatives to purchase and publish the profiles of legislators who supported the rollback
"House Republicans voted Tuesday to repeal a set of landmark privacy protections for Web users, in a sharp pivot away from the Internet policies of the Obama administration. President Trump is expected to sign the measure.

Tuesday's vote is likely to lend momentum to a broader rollback of Obama-era policies, particularly in the technology sector. And it empowers Internet providers to enter the $83 billion market for online advertising, where the ability to collect, store, share and sell consumers' behavioral information is directly linked to companies' bottom line. Proponents of the repeal argue the regulations stifle innovation by forcing Internet providers to abide by unreasonably strict guidelines. But defenders of the privacy rules say they are the only thing preventing broadband companies from spying on their customers and selling that data to the highest bidder."
Republicans voted to roll back landmark FCC privacy rules. Here’s what you need to know. - The Washington Post

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Samsung confirms the Note 7 is coming back as a refurbished device - The Verge

The Note 7 debacle continues -- where local regulators approve...

"“The objective of introducing refurbished devices is solely to reduce and minimize any environmental impact,” Samsung told The Verge in a statement. It also hinted that the phone may be renamed entirely when more details are unveiled. “The product details including the name, technical specification and price range will be announced when the device is available. Samsung will not be offering refurbished Galaxy Note 7 devices for rent or sale in the US.”

Samsung’s recycling plans come after Greenpeace protestors interrupted the company’s Mobile World Congress keynote last month, demanding to know what the company will do with the 4.3 million recalled devices. “Samsung’s announcement is the first step to show its effort to set a new path for recycling smartphones starting with Note 7s,” Greenpeace wrote in a blog post. “Greenpeace will make sure Samsung takes into account the voice of millions of our supporters and abides by its commitment.”"
Samsung confirms the Note 7 is coming back as a refurbished device - The Verge

Facebook's 'Town Hall' is probably the best thing the social network has ever done (Mashable)

Also see Facebook officially launches “Town Hall” for contacting government reps, adds local election reminders (TechCrunch)

"The update means you'll now be just clicks away from voicing your concern about what disturbs you about the Trump administration (like its attempt to quash the EPA, healthcare policy and net neutrality).

It's a good move by Facebook and follows with Zuckerberg's plan to increase civil engagement. Indeed, Zuckerberg has dedicated his 2017 to traveling to every state in America, rather than prioritize trips overseas. 

The feature is integrated into the Facebook News Feed. If you choose to like or comment on a post by one of your local representatives, you'll see a way to contact your representative after the post."
Facebook's 'Town Hall' is probably the best thing the social network has ever done

Intel Tries to Fire Up High-End PC Demand With New Memory Chips - Bloomberg

Seeking to cache in

"Optane packages are based on Intel’s 3D Xpoint memory. They’ll function as a giant fast cache, storing files frequently used by the processor and allowing much quicker load times. The new offering doesn’t replace computer storage or main memory.

The memory chip only works with Intel processors. That may help the company rebuff an attempt by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. to claw back some of the market with a new range of processors it says rival Intel’s best.

It’s also aimed at one of the few areas of the PC market - which has been declining since it peaked in 2011 - that has remained strong: High-end gaming PCs will grow about 12 percent this year, according to a prediction provided by Intel. That growth will be driven by gamers’ willingness to fork out for the highest performing hardware."
Intel Tries to Fire Up High-End PC Demand With New Memory Chips - Bloomberg

Elon Musk Launches Neuralink to Connect Brains With Computers - WSJ

Also see Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI (The Verge)

"Building a mass-market electric vehicle and colonizing Mars aren’t ambitious enough for Elon Musk. The billionaire entrepreneur now wants to merge computers with human brains to help people keep up with machines.

The founder and chief executive of Tesla Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has launched another company called Neuralink Corp., according to people familiar with the matter. Neuralink is pursuing what Mr. Musk calls “neural lace” technology, implanting tiny brain electrodes that may one day upload and download thoughts."
Elon Musk Launches Neuralink to Connect Brains With Computers - WSJ

Monday, March 27, 2017

Elon Musk’s Billion-Dollar Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse | Vanity Fair

Summary: "Elon Musk is famous for his futuristic gambles, but Silicon Valley’s latest rush to embrace artificial intelligence scares him. And he thinks you should be frightened too. Inside his efforts to influence the rapidly advancing field and its proponents, and to save humanity from machine-learning overlords."

Excerpt:
"Musk believes that it is better to try to get super-A.I. first and distribute the technology to the world than to allow the algorithms to be concealed and concentrated in the hands of tech or government elites—even when the tech elites happen to be his own friends, people such as Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. “I’ve had many conversations with Larry about A.I. and robotics—many, many,” Musk told me. “And some of them have gotten quite heated. You know, I think it’s not just Larry, but there are many futurists who feel a certain inevitability or fatalism about robots, where we’d have some sort of peripheral role. The phrase used is ‘We are the biological boot-loader for digital super-intelligence.’ ” (A boot loader is the small program that launches the operating system when you first turn on your computer.) “Matter can’t organize itself into a chip,” Musk explained. “But it can organize itself into a biological entity that gets increasingly sophisticated and ultimately can create the chip.”

Musk has no intention of being a boot loader. Page and Brin see themselves as forces for good, but Musk says the issue goes far beyond the motivations of a handful of Silicon Valley executives.

“It’s great when the emperor is Marcus Aurelius,” he says. “It’s not so great when the emperor is Caligula.”"
Elon Musk’s Billion-Dollar Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse | Vanity Fair

The High-Speed Trading Behind Your Amazon Purchase - WSJ

Amazon economy insights

"Just beneath the placid surface of a typical product page on Amazon lies an unseen world, a system where third-party vendors can sell products alongside Amazon’s own goods. It’s like a stock market, complete with day traders, code-slinging quants, artificial-intelligence algorithms and, yes, flash crashes.

Amazon gave people and companies the ability to sell on Amazon.com in 2000, and it has since grown into a juggernaut, representing 49% of the goods Amazon ships. Amazon doesn’t break out numbers for the portion of its business driven by independent sellers, but that translates to tens of billions in revenue a year. Out of more than 2 million registered sellers, 100,000 each sold more than $100,000 in goods in the past year, Peter Faricy, Amazon’s vice president in charge of the division that includes outside sellers, said at a conference last week."
The High-Speed Trading Behind Your Amazon Purchase - WSJ

Tesla Model 3 Ramp Up Aims to Crush BMW and Mercedes - Bloomberg

From an extensive Tesla reality check

"One year ago this week, Elon Musk took to a stage to unveil his most important vehicle yet: the $35,000 Model 3. The electric five-seater accelerates as fast as the the best-selling luxury sport sedans in America—the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C Class—and costs about the same.

The value proposition was the best ever for an electric car, and the crowd ate it up. 

But none of his pronouncements that night were as audacious as those to come. After taking in about 400,000 deposits at $1,000 a piece, Musk ramped up production plans. And then he ramped them up some more. Now, three months from the official start of production, the billionaire Tesla CEO seems to think he can not only match the performance of those top luxury brands, but outsell them in the U.S., too—in just one year."
Tesla Model 3 Ramp Up Aims to Crush BMW and Mercedes - Bloomberg

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Amazon’s Ambitions Unboxed: Stores for Furniture, Appliances and More - The New York Times

Also see Amazon, the world’s most remarkable firm, is just getting started and Are investors too optimistic about Amazon? (The Economist)

"Now the fight is coming directly to retailers on actual streets around the globe, where Amazon is slowly building a fleet of physical stores. And while most of the attention has been focused on Amazon’s grocery store dreams, the company has a more ambitious collection of experiments underway.

If those experiments work — and there is no guarantee of that — they could have a profound influence on how other stores operate. Over time, they could also introduce new forms of automation, putting traditional retail jobs in jeopardy. At the same time, locating those stores close to customers’ homes could also help Amazon further its ambitions of delivering internet orders within hours."
Amazon’s Ambitions Unboxed: Stores for Furniture, Appliances and More - The New York Times

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Upgrade your Medium (Ev Williams on Medium)

A new Medium subscription model; also see Medium debuts its paid membership subscription program (TechCrunch)

"But how does this lead to you paying Medium $5 a month?
It’s simple. Corporate advertising budgets become the primary funders of our information providers. No matter how skilled or well-intentioned, ad-driven publishers are rewarded on their ability to capture attention and even, at times, to weave a particular corporate-driven narrative. Not to provide informed perspectives, be thorough, or even be factually correct. But to capture attention. As cheaply as possible. For a few fleeting seconds. Click, click, scroll…
There is no way to fix this dynamic until we demand better — and decide to pay for it. We need a system that funds stories and ideas not just based on their ability to attract attention, but on their value to readers. This is the system that Medium is building, and as a founding member, you’ll get to help tell us what’s most valuable and how we spend that money."
Upgrade your Medium

Apple has acquired Workflow, a powerful automation tool for iPad and iPhone | TechCrunch

Also see Apple bought the best utility app for the iPhone, Workflow (The Verge)

"Workflow has been around for a couple of years and we’ve covered it and its updates. It shares some similarity with the service IFTTT, in that it allows people to group together a bunch of actions that can allow them to perform complicated tasks with one tap. It had built up a sizeable number of users and downloads over the past few years.

Workflow the app is being acquired, along with the team of Weinstein, Conrad Kramer, Ayaka Nonaka and Nick Frey. In a somewhat uncommon move for Apple, the app will continue to be made available on the App Store and will be made free later today."
Apple has acquired Workflow, a powerful automation tool for iPad and iPhone | TechCrunch

Google Ad Crisis Spreads as Biggest Marketers Halt Spending - Bloomberg

Also see AT&T and Johnson & Johnson Pull Ads From YouTube (NYT) and Google’s YouTube Advertiser Problem has No Easy Fix (Tech.pinions)
"On Wednesday, the boycott spread across the Atlantic as U.S. companies that are among the heaviest ad spenders pulled back, potentially costing Google and YouTube hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business.

AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc., the largest U.S. wireless carriers, said they had stopped non-search advertising spending with Google. Johnson & Johnson, the world’s biggest health-care company, paused all YouTube advertising globally.

“We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate,” a spokeswoman for AT&T said in a statement Wednesday. “Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.”"
Google Ad Crisis Spreads as Biggest Marketers Halt Spending - Bloomberg

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Kindle for iOS finally gets the “Send to Kindle” feature, challenging Pocket and Instapaper | TechCrunch

A handy option if you prefer reading long-form content with a Kindle (or Kindle app)

"Amazon has quietly rolled out the “Send to Kindle” feature to its Kindle for iOS application that allows you to save to the app articles and documents found on the web. That means your Kindle device or app can replace your preferred “read it later” application — like Pocket or Instapaper, for example — apps where regular web readers often store the longer news articles, features or profiles they want to dig into at a later date.

Amazon, of course, already supported saving web content to Kindle through desktop browser extensions, emails to your “Send-to-Kindle” email address and from Android phones. But now that lineup includes the default iOS browser, Safari, which will make the feature more accessible to a large number of users."
Kindle for iOS finally gets the “Send to Kindle” feature, challenging Pocket and Instapaper | TechCrunch

The next version of Android is supposed to have better battery life - Recode

Actual results may vary; also see Google releases Android O to developers, promising better battery life and notifications (The Verge)
"In addition to battery life, Android O is expected to have simplified app notification settings and the ability to allow picture-in-picture display, so users can do things like respond to texts while watching videos in YouTube without having to close the video window.

Something that’s not changing: As with previous updates to Android, no one knows what fraction of Android users will get the update. Android might be the most common mobile phone operating system, but pushing out updates to users is often up to carriers and manufacturers, not Google.

According to Android’s developer site, a mere 3 percent of Android users have Nougat, which is the latest version now available. By contrast, 79 percent of iOS users are currently on the latest version of iPhone software, iOS 10."
The next version of Android is supposed to have better battery life - Recode

Crossing the Border? Here’s How to Safeguard Your Data From Searches - The New York Times

Check the full article for some timely travel tips

"Legally, citizens are not required to unlock their cellphones or share their passwords with United States government officials. But rules may vary depending on where you are traveling to and from. And any stopping by a government official can be inconvenient, and even intimidating.

What to do? There’s one thing all the experts agree on: Do not lie to government officials about your passwords or social media accounts.

“They’d make your life miserable if they found that out,” said Jeremiah Grossman, the head of security strategy for SentinelOne, a computer security company.

But there are methods for safeguarding your cellphones, tablets and computers from invasive searches, all while remaining honest. Here are some of the best tips, based on interviews with security and forensics specialists."
Crossing the Border? Here’s How to Safeguard Your Data From Searches - The New York Times

A.I. Expert at Baidu, Andrew Ng, Resigns From Chinese Search Giant - The New York Times

See Opening a new chapter of my work in AI (Andrew Ng on Medium) for more details

"In 2014, Baidu announced a hiring coup in the world of artificial intelligence: It had brought in the Stanford and Google alumnus Andrew Ng to lead a new research lab in Silicon Valley.

Just under three years later, Mr. Ng said in a blog post on Tuesday that he was leaving the Chinese search engine company.

His departure is a blow to Baidu, which has been betting big on artificial intelligence, a technology that is expected to undergird a range of others, like voice recognition and driverless cars."
A.I. Expert at Baidu, Andrew Ng, Resigns From Chinese Search Giant - The New York Times

'Disputed by multiple fact-checkers': Facebook rolls out new alert to combat fake news | Technology | The Guardian

Better late than never

"Facebook has started rolling out its third-party fact-checking tool in the fight against fake news, alerting users to “disputed content”.

The site announced in December it would be partnering with independent fact-checkers to crack down on the spread of misinformation on its platform.

The tool was first observed by Facebook users attempting to link to a story that falsely claimed hundreds of thousands of Irish people were brought to the US as slaves."
'Disputed by multiple fact-checkers': Facebook rolls out new alert to combat fake news | Technology | The Guardian

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

SoftBank Drops $100 Million Investment in iPhone Rival - WSJ

Also see SoftBank Invests $300 Million in WeWork (Bloomberg)

"SoftBank Group Corp. scrapped a planned $100 million investment in a smartphone startup founded by the creator of Google’s Android software, partly because of the Japanese investor’s increasingly close relationship with Apple Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

The planned investment would have valued the startup, Essential Products Inc., at $1 billion, these people say, a lofty amount for a company that has yet to sell a product in one of technology’s most cutthroat industries. It had already been agreed to informally, and final investment contracts were being drawn up, say people familiar with the deal, a stage at which venture deals are rarely abandoned."
SoftBank Drops $100 Million Investment in iPhone Rival - WSJ

Trump is using @POTUS to live-tweet at the FBI director as he testifies before Congress - Recode

Probably not a usage scenario Jack Dorsey had in mind when he sent the first tweet 11 years ago today; also see FBI Director James Comey Takes On New Role Fact-Checking the President’s Tweets (The Intercept)
"Here’s a real thing that happened today: As the head of the FBI testified before Congress about possible Russian involvement in the 2016 election, the White House took to the @POTUS twitter account to argue with the head of the FBI.

True story, captured on TV and on the internet, in real time."
Trump is using @POTUS to live-tweet at the FBI director as he testifies before Congress - Recode

Bixby: A New Way to Interact with Your Phone - Samsung Newsroom

Details on Samsung's big Bixby bet -- see the full post for more on completeness + context awareness + cognitive tolerance; also see Say hi to Samsung Bixby, the new voice assistant in the Galaxy S8 (Mashable)

"Samsung has a conceptually new philosophy to the problem:  instead of humans learning how the machine interacts with the world (a reflection of the abilities of designers), it is the machine that needs to learn and adapt to us.  The interface must be natural and intuitive enough to flatten the learning curve regardless of the number of functions being added. With this new approach, Samsung has employed artificial intelligence, reinforcing deep learning concepts to the core of our user interface designs. Bixby is the ongoing result of this effort.

Bixby will be a new intelligent interface on our devices. Fundamentally different from other voice agents or assistants in the market, Bixby offers a deeper experience thanks to proficiency in these three properties:"
Bixby: A New Way to Interact with Your Phone - Samsung Newsroom

Platform Companies Are Becoming More Powerful — but What Exactly Do They Want? - The New York Times

Pondering platform permutations

"Uber, like so many other successful tech companies in 2017, is a “platform business,” one built around matchmaking between vendors and customers. If successful, a platform creates its own marketplace; if extremely successful, it ends up controlling something closer to an entire economy. This is intuitive in a case like eBay, which connects buyers and sellers. Airbnb, too, resembles an age-old form of commerce, connecting property owners with short-term lodgers. TaskRabbit and Fiverr connect contractors with people looking to hire them. Some of the largest platforms are less obviously transactional: Facebook and Google connect advertisers with users, users with one another, software developers with users. But while the transactions that happen on their platforms largely take a different form — taps, shares, ads served and scrolled past — the principles are essentially the same, as are the benefits. These businesses are asset- and employee-light, low on liability and high on upside. They aspire to monopoly, often unapologetically, and have been instrumental in rehabilitating the concept. (The logic is seductive and often self-evident: Facebook is more useful if everyone is on it, therefore everyone should be on Facebook.)"
Platform Companies Are Becoming More Powerful — but What Exactly Do They Want? - The New York Times

Inside Amazon’s Battle to Break Into the $800 Billion Grocery Market - Bloomberg

A Fresh start
"Amazon’s goal is to become a Top 5 grocery retailer by 2025, according to a person familiar with the matter. That would require more than $30 billion in annual food and beverage spending through its sites, up from $8.7 billion — including Amazon Fresh and all other food and drink sales — in 2016, according to Cowen & Co.

Reaching that milestone would require a new wave of store and warehouse investments around the country, costing billions of dollars. That’s an existential change for Amazon, which initially stayed away from perishable goods and has mostly avoided the overhead of physical stores since it started in 1994. 
“A bunch of smart people at Amazon have been thinking about re-imagining the next phase of physical retail,” said Scott Jacobson, a former Amazon executive who is now a managing director at Madrona Venture Group. “They want more share of the wallet, and habitual, frequent use of Amazon for groceries is the ultimate goal.”"
Inside Amazon’s Battle to Break Into the $800 Billion Grocery Market - Bloomberg

Monday, March 20, 2017

Apple’s Next Big Thing: Augmented Reality - Bloomberg

From a detailed Apple AR deep-dive; also see Apple's Augmented Reality Team is bringing in more Specialists to work on their Future Platform (Patently Apple)

"Tim Cook has talked up a lot of technologies since becoming Apple Inc.'s chief executive in 2011. Driverless cars. Artificial intelligence. Streaming television. But no technology has fired up Cook quite like augmented reality, which overlays images, video and games on the real world. Cook has likened AR's game-changing potential to that of the smartphone. At some point, he said last year, we will all "have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you."

Investors impatient for Apple's next breakthrough will be happy to know that Cook is very serious about AR. People with knowledge of the company's plans say Apple has embarked on an ambitious bid to bring the technology to the masses—an effort Cook and his team see as the best way for the company to dominate the next generation of gadgetry and keep people wedded to its ecosystem."
Apple’s Next Big Thing: Augmented Reality - Bloomberg

CEO says Slack is growing up, but maybe not going public - Axios

Also see Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield: Tech alone can't stop Trump (Axios)

"Microsoft released Teams last week, and Google is reconfiguring Hangouts to be more of a player. Do you see those two companies becoming tougher competitors than they have been?

Certainly than they have been, because they are more or less new entrants. They are each a little bit different. We are working pretty closely with Google on the partnership side and deeper and deeper integrations. I think there's a relationship there that works even if we are competing on some fronts. We had Diane Greene on stage for (a) launch event just a couple months ago.
There's two senses in which we think about it. One is me as a fiduciary to the company to take the competition seriously and the other is me as someone who really enjoys making software. It's exciting and exhilarating for the same reason it's more fun to play basketball against an opponent than to shoot hoops against yourself. I think we're really well positioned in both cases."
CEO says Slack is growing up, but maybe not going public - Axios

From Seattle it came: How Jeff Bezos is taking over the world - The Boston Globe

From a timely Amazon reality check; tangentially, see Jeff Bezos looks a little too happy piloting a giant mechanical robot (The Verge)
"His empire now threatens big name companies as diverse as The New York Times and Walmart. And the list of rivals keeps expanding. Amazon has gone head to head with Hulu, Netflix, and HBO with original television and movie production. When the rapacious company announced that it needed to increase shipping capacity, UPS and FedEx were quickly put on high alert. There seems to be no limit to Bezos’s desire to grow — his space-exploration company, Blue Origin, envisions Amazon-style delivery to the moon — and that means that countless other companies may no doubt find themselves in Amazon’s crosshairs.

As his empire and his ambitions swell, Bezos looks like a new kind of competitor on the global scene: someone with essentially bottomless pockets, an ever-expanding cache of data, and a willingness to keep investing in insurgent businesses until the rest of the world recognizes the value in them. Ironically, in an economy fixated on short-term results, exceptional patience pays off."
From Seattle it came: How Jeff Bezos is taking over the world - The Boston Globe

Sorry, a Robot Is Not About to Replace Your Lawyer - The New York Times

On a related note, see The real estate industry has something the Internet can’t offer: The human element (The Washington Post)

"But recent research and even the people working on the software meant to automate legal work say the adoption of A.I. in law firms will be a slow, task-by-task process. In other words, like it or not, a robot is not about to replace your lawyer. At least, not anytime soon.

“There is this popular view that if you can automate one piece of the work, the rest of the job is toast,” said Frank Levy, a labor economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “That’s just not true, or only rarely the case.”"
Sorry, a Robot Is Not About to Replace Your Lawyer - The New York Times

Two Executives to Leave Uber, Adding to Departures - The New York Times

Also see In Silicon Valley, a Voice of Caution Guides a High-Flying Uber (NYT)
"Jeff Jones, Uber’s president of ride sharing, has left the company after just six months, Uber said on Sunday. In addition, Brian McClendon, vice president of maps and business platform at Uber, also plans to leave at the end of the month. [...]

The departures add to the executive exodus from Uber this year. Raffi Krikorian, a well-regarded director in Uber’s self-driving division, left the company last week, while Gary Marcus, who joined Uber in December after Uber acquired his company, left this month. Uber also asked for the resignation of Amit Singhal, a top engineer who failed to disclose a sexual harassment claim against him at his previous employer, Google, before joining Uber. And Ed Baker, another senior executive, left this month as well."
Two Executives to Leave Uber, Adding to Departures - The New York Times

Friday, March 17, 2017

Head in the cloud: What Satya Nadella did at Microsoft | The Economist

Excerpt from a profile of Microsoft in transition

"Mr Nadella has changed the firm’s organisation as well as its culture. It is now more of a vertically integrated technology firm—“full stack”, in the jargon. It not only writes all kinds of software, but builds its own data centres and designs its own hardware. Mr Nadella points out that it now even develops some of the chips for its data centres.

His imprint can be seen on three businesses in particular: the cloud, hardware and AI. Microsoft does not break out by how much it has increased investment in the cloud, but building data centres is expensive and its capital expenditure is soon expected nearly to double, to $9bn a year, from when Mr Nadella took over. If you take only basic services, such as data storage and computing, Microsoft’s cloud is much smaller than Amazon Web Services, the leader in cloud computing, which is owned by Amazon, an e-commerce giant. But if you add Microsoft’s web-based services, such as Office 365 and other business applications, which are only a negligible part of AWS’s portfolio, the two firms are of comparable size. Both AWS’s and Microsoft’s cloud businesses boast an annual run rate (the latest quarterly revenues multiplied by four) of $14bn. Microsoft hopes to reach $20bn by its 2018 financial year, a fifth of total expected revenues."
Head in the cloud: What Satya Nadella did at Microsoft | The Economist

How DeepMind’s Memory Trick Helps AI Learn Faster - MIT Technology Review

tl;dr: for better neural episodic control, simply remember everything

"Pritzel and co have used this approach as their inspiration. Their new system has two approaches. The first is a conventional deep-learning system that mimics the behaviur of the prefrontal cortex. The second is more like the hippocampus. When the system tries something new, it remembers the outcome.

But crucially, it doesn’t try to learn what to remember. Instead, it remembers everything. “Our architecture does not try to learn when to write to memory, as this can be slow to learn and take a significant amount of time,” say Pritzel and co. “Instead, we elect to write all experiences to the memory, and allow it to grow very large compared to existing memory architectures.”

They then use a set of strategies to read from this large memory quickly. The result is that the system can latch onto successful strategies much more quickly than conventional deep-learning systems."
How DeepMind’s Memory Trick Helps AI Learn Faster - MIT Technology Review

Guardian pulls ads from Google after they were placed next to extremist material | Media | The Guardian

Also see Google summoned to appear before the UK government to explain why ads keep appearing next to extremist YouTube videos (Business Insider)
"Ads for the Guardian’s membership scheme are understood to have been placed alongside a range of extremist material after an agency acting on the media group’s behalf used Google’s AdX ad exchange.

David Pemsel, the Guardian’s chief executive, wrote to Google to say that it was “completely unacceptable” for its advertising to be misused in this way.

He said the Guardian would be withdrawing its advertising until Google can “provide guarantees that this ad misplacement via Google and YouTube will not happen in the future”.   
The content included YouTube videos of American white nationalists, a hate preacher banned in the UK and a controversial Islamist preacher."
Guardian pulls ads from Google after they were placed next to extremist material | Media | The Guardian

Google Home is playing audio ads for Beauty and the Beast - The Verge

A "tale" of advertising innovation

"“By the way, Disney’s live action Beauty and The Beast opens today,” the Assistant says, after covering the usual time, weather, and commute routine. “In this version of the story, Belle is the inventor instead of Maurice. That rings truer if you ask me. For some more movie fun, ask me something about Belle.” Meunier didn’t respond, so Home simply said “Have a good one” and moved on to the day’s news headlines from NPR. Google Home doesn’t yet work with Fandango, so it’s not like users could even take advantage of the ad and quickly reserve tickets at a local theater. The company has since stopped serving the Beauty and the Beast content to users.

When contacted by The Verge for more information, Google denied that the audio snippet was actually an ad, initially providing this rather strange statement: “This isn't an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales.” That appeared to describe... an advertisement. Using Beauty and the Beast references."
Google Home is playing audio ads for Beauty and the Beast - The Verge

iPhone users can now access Amazon’s Alexa on the go | Ars Technica

Check this Amazon page for details

"Although this puts Alexa in direct competition with Siri, Apple's voice assistant has the upper-hand in that it's truly hands-free. With Siri enabled, you can say "Hey Siri!" and your iOS device will hear you and listen to your command. To talk to Alexa, you need to open the Amazon Shopping app and press the microphone icon before you can say any commands.

However, Alexa may truly challenge Siri when it comes to smart home controls. You can control HomeKit-compatible devices with Siri in the same way that you can control Alexa-compatible devices with Amazon's assistant. Amazon has a larger library of Alexa-ready smart-home products, and iOS users who already use Alexa to control most of their smart home may embrace this mobile way of doing so. That could also compel users just getting into the smart-home space to buy Alexa-compatible products over HomeKit-ready devices (but there is overlap between those two device groups, too)."
iPhone users can now access Amazon’s Alexa on the go | Ars Technica

Samsung needs its next phone to be a success. Here’s how it may lure you back. - The Washington Post

When these (and a headphone jack...) may be near the top of the list of competitive differentiation features, Samsung is likely to have another rough year; see the full article for other anticipated features

"Desktop mode: The new phones will have a mode that will let them connect to a monitor and be used more like a PC, according to an anonymous tip received by the tech blog All About Windows Phone. Users will reportedly be able to open multiple apps alongside each other, similar to the way Microsoft’s “Continuum” feature gives users a computer-like work environment using just their smartphone and a monitor.

A new assistant: Samsung last year bought Viv, the company originally behind Apple's Siri assistant. So it makes sense that the new phone would have a new assistant that would perform many of the same functions as Siri, as reported by the Guardian.

The assistant's reported name, Bixby, appears to have been confirmed by Samsung itself, through an Italian-language privacy policy published online that mentions the name."
Samsung needs its next phone to be a success. Here’s how it may lure you back. - The Washington Post

Fury Road: Did Uber Steal the Driverless Future From Google? - Bloomberg

Excerpt from this week's Bloomberg Businessweek cover story

"“Google is the Xerox Parc of self-driving cars,” says George Hotz, the founder of Comma.ai, another autonomous car startup. It’s a backhanded compliment: Although Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center invented the modern computer operating system, it didn’t bring the invention to market; Apple Inc. did. “The real question is, why hasn’t Google shipped?” Hotz asks. He regards Google’s lawsuit as a deliberate conflation of two different beefs. The first—the accusation that Levandowski stole documents—is serious. The second, Hotz says, “just signals weakness on Google’s part.” In Silicon Valley, and at the Googleplex, litigation is looked upon as the last refuge of the undisruptive.

Whatever Levandowski did with Google’s files, he’s not wrong that Google has struggled to commercialize technology that’s widely regarded as the best in the automotive industry. Before Google worked on its current prototype, a two-seater that has a top speed of 20 miles per hour and vaguely resembles a koala bear, the company pitched Elon Musk on outfitting his electric Tesla vehicles with Google tech, according to two people familiar with the deal. Musk passed and a few years later launched Tesla Inc.’s highway autopilot service on his own. A former Google executive says John Krafcik, who joined the car project as CEO in 2015, would sometimes appear rattled by the competitive moves of Tesla and Uber, wondering aloud if Google may have already been “leapfrogged.” He would grow particularly irritable “every time Elon would post something on Twitter,” the executive says."
Fury Road: Did Uber Steal the Driverless Future From Google? - Bloomberg

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Oracle's Cloud Business Shows Momentum as Sales, Profit Beat - Bloomberg

Later in the article: "New software licenses, a measure that’s tied to Oracle’s traditional on-premise [sic] software business, declined 16 percent to $1.41 billion -- smaller than the drop of 20 percent posted in the fiscal second quarter."

"The report marked three straight quarters of revenue gains after more than a year of declines. Oracle has been adding products and pushing customers toward its cloud-based business software and services, which offer computing and storage power from remote sites. Oracle’s infrastructure offering, a product that goes head-to-head with Amazon Web Services, will eventually be the software company’s biggest cloud business, Executive Chairman Larry Ellison said.

"These results show a nice upward inflection in the overall business as new cloud revenues are more than offsetting the declines in software license sales," Rodney Nelson, an analyst at Morningstar, said via email. That performance and Ellison’s comments may "be fueling some additional optimism around the transition," he said."
Oracle's Cloud Business Shows Momentum as Sales, Profit Beat - Bloomberg

Musk Goes Back to Wall Street to Bring the Model 3 to Market - Bloomberg

On a related note, see Cities Shop for $10 Billion of Electric Cars to Defy Trump (Bloomberg)

"After burning through cash in late 2016 and warning Wall Street that the company was “close to the edge,” Tesla announced Wednesday that it would sell new stock and convertible securities while preparing for volume production and deliveries of its first mass-market car later this year.

News of a big stock sale typically depresses a company’s share price because it dilutes the value of investors’ holdings. But this is Musk, whose vertically integrated clean-energy company has captured imaginations on and off Wall Street even as the Palo Alto, California-based company has struggled to be profitable. Instead of falling, Tesla stock rose in late trading."
Musk Goes Back to Wall Street to Bring the Model 3 to Market - Bloomberg

Hadoop Has Failed Us, Tech Experts Say (Datanami)

Another timely "Hadoop platform" reality check

"The Hadoop dream of unifying data and compute in a distributed manner has all but failed in a smoking heap of cost and complexity, according to technology experts and executives who spoke to Datanami.

“I can’t find a happy Hadoop customer. It’s sort of as simple as that,” says Bob Muglia, CEO of Snowflake Computing, which develops and runs a cloud-based relational data warehouse offering. “It’s very clear to me, technologically, that it’s not the technology base the world will be built on going forward.”

Thousands of organizations store huge amounts of data in Hadoop, and so Hadoop won’t disappear overnight. After all, many companies still run mainframe applications that were originally developed half a century ago. But thanks to better mousetraps like S3 (for storage) and Spark (for processing), Hadoop will be relegated to niche and legacy statuses going forward, Muglia says."
Hadoop Has Failed Us, Tech Experts Say

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The cloud is disrupting Hadoop | Information Management

Excerpt from a timely Hadoop reality check

"Cloud vendors are hiding or replacing Hadoop all together. AWS Athena lets you do SQL queries against big data without worrying about server instances. It’s a trend in “serverless” offerings. Google Cloud Functions are another example. DataBricks uses Spark directly against S3. IBM’s platform uses Spark against CloverSafe. See the pattern?

As more firms get tired of Hadoop’s on-premises complexity and shift to the public cloud, they will look to shift their Hadoop stacks there. This means that the Hadoop vendors will start to see their revenue shift from on-premises to the cloud.

But serverless and Hadoop alternatives in the public cloud will gain traction, undercutting Hadoop revenue, unless the Hadoop community can give the industry a compelling reason to keep using all of Hadoop."
The cloud is disrupting Hadoop | Information Management

Microsoft adds LinkedIn co-founder Hoffman to its board | ZDNet

Microsoft is getting better connected in Silicon Valley; also see Now We Know Why Microsoft Bought LinkedIn (Wired)
"As of Hoffman's appointment, announced March 14, Microsoft's board is back up to 12 members.Hoffman is a partner with Greylock Partners. He cofounded LinkedIn in 2002 and before that, was an executive vice president at PayPal.

Microsoft purchased LinkedIn last year for $26.2 billion. Earlier this year, Microsoft made Kevin Scott, LinkedIn's head of engineering, Microsoft's own chief technology officer.

Microsoft and LinkedIn are currently working on a variety of product and service integrations. Microsoft is looking to take advantage of LinkedIn's professional graph, or database, of various workplace-related entities."
Microsoft adds LinkedIn co-founder Hoffman to its board | ZDNet

How Microsoft built its Slack competitor - The Verge

Some insights into the development of Microsoft Teams, which became generally available yesterday

"Microsoft Teams might be launching across the world today, but the app started off on a fruit farm in Hawaii and a hotel room in Las Vegas. These unconventional work locations formed the foundations for the Microsoft Teams chat app that thousands of businesses will start using this week. “We really wanted to experience being close together and get the team much more close-knit so that we could model how we really make Teams more close-knit in software,” explains Brian MacDonald, head of Microsoft Teams, in an interview with The Verge.

Brian MacDonald worked on the original version of Microsoft’s Outlook email app, and was tasked with creating a concept for the company’s new chat software. Microsoft had tried, years ago, to convince businesses to switch to group chats, but the product it acquired for the task wasn’t good enough. Around the time Slack and Hipchat were growing and starting to get popular, MacDonald wrote a document to pitch what would become Microsoft Teams, and put together a group to make it a reality. That original pitch, back in February 2015, included the bizarre offsite locations for brainstorming what Microsoft Teams would become."
How Microsoft built its Slack competitor - The Verge

How Google and Levi’s smart jacket shows what’s coming next for wearables - The Washington Post

Wearing IoT on your sleeve

""Where smartwatches were once expected to take the lead, basic wearables now reign supreme," Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for the analysis firm International Data Corporation, said in a December report. "From a design perspective, many devices are focusing on fashion first while allowing the technology to blend in with the background."

The partnership between Google and Levi's speaks to that growing effort between the technology and fashion industries. Several designers have already partnered with the likes of Fitbit and Apple to make their wearables more chic and less geek. Companies including Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Under Armour have released smart activewear; seeing a brand as old and mainstream as Levi's get in on the act illustrates just how pervasive the idea has become.

"The retail opportunity is huge," Morgan-Petro said. "We're basically seeing clothes as the future of wearables.""
How Google and Levi’s smart jacket shows what’s coming next for wearables - The Washington Post

How the Internet Is Saving Culture, Not Killing It - The New York Times

Consume different

"You’ve already heard about the rise of subscription-based media platforms — things like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Spotify and Apple Music. But people are also paying for smaller-audience and less-mainstream-friendly content. They are subscribing to podcasters, comedians, zany YouTube stars, novelists and comic book artists. They are even paying for news.

It’s difficult to overstate how big a deal this is. More than 20 years after it first caught mainstream attention and began to destroy everything about how we finance culture, the digital economy is finally beginning to coalesce around a sustainable way of supporting content. If subscriptions keep taking off, it won’t just mean that some of your favorite creators will survive the internet. It could also make for a profound shift in the way we find and support new cultural talent. It could lead to a wider variety of artists and art, and forge closer connections between the people who make art and those who enjoy it."
How the Internet Is Saving Culture, Not Killing It - The New York Times

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Alphabet's Jigsaw wants to explain tech jargon to you - CNET

Later in the article: "For the Sideways Dictionary, Jigsaw even enlisted the help of Schmidt himself, as well as Vint Cerf, who is considered one of the "fathers of the internet" and now works at Google as chief internet evangelist, to write some of the analogies." Also see Jigsaw’s Sideways Dictionary explains complex tech, security terms with everyday analogies (9to5Google). The site launches today (and doesn't appear to have a public home page, as I type this, although searches such as https://sidewaysdictionary.com/#/term/encryption work; the Chrome extension is available and live now).

Update: start at https://sidewaysdictionary.com/#/
"It might sound obvious, but the thing about tech is that sometimes it can get really, well, technical.

So Alphabet wants to help make nitty-gritty tech jargon simpler to explain to the masses. On Tuesday, Jigsaw, a tech incubator owned by Google's parent company, launched a website called the Sideways Dictionary that takes jargon and puts it into terms normal people would understand. Jigsaw partnered with the Washington Post to build the tool.

Here's how it works. Type in a term and the site gives you analogies that would make sense to laypeople.

For example, type in "encryption" and here's one of the analogies you'll get: "It's like sending a sealed letter instead of a postcard. To ban encryption would be like requiring all mail to be sent as postcards, including bank statements, medical letters and holiday photos. Your postman, neighbors and postal service would soon know you pretty well.""
Alphabet's Jigsaw wants to explain tech jargon to you - CNET

Social media: In praise of serendipity | The Economist

Also see Cass Sunstein on the echo chamber and his new book, #Republic (Princeton University Press Blog)
"In some ways, “#Republic” is a kind of Democracy 101, a review of the basic requirements for those who may have skipped the course. These requirements include, among other things, that citizens be exposed to a wide range of ideas and perspectives—even, and especially, those they would not choose to see or hear. Unplanned, chance encounters—with a protest as one wanders down the street, or a competing argument aired on the evening news—help guard against “fragmentation, polarisation and extremism”. They ensure that people are not hearing only an echo of their own voice. They reduce the likelihood that people will be stirred to extremes, such as terrorism. And they promote shared information and experiences, making it easier to solve problems and govern in a heterogeneous society.
This is the positive side of the free- speech principle, Mr Sunstein writes. It means not only forbidding censorship, but also creating a culture where people engage with the views of fellow citizens. [...]
It is not just up to Mr Zuckerberg, then, to foster a culture of curiosity and openness. Citizens must demand it, Mr Sunstein argues, and they must seek out those serendipitous encounters. “#Republic” is full of constructive suggestions. It should be required reading for anyone who is concerned with the future of democracy—in Silicon Valley and beyond."
Social media: In praise of serendipity | The Economist

Washington Post Licenses Publishing Technology to Tronc - WSJ

All the news that's fit to host

"“Small publishers with limited budgets don’t actually have too many options here. They can use [content management system] WordPress for content, but what do you do for video? What do you do for apps? What if you want to do Facebook Instant Articles? Putting it in the cloud will benefit those publishers,” Mr. Prakash said.

Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon and now owner of the Post, has had a hand in building the Arc platform, and has encouraged executives at the Post to take a page out of Amazon’s playbook for its Amazon Web Services cloud computing product.

AWS has allowed developers of all sizes to access cloud computing services, and the Post wants to do the same for publishers with its Arc division. The entire Arc platform is hosted by AWS, and publishers pay based on the amount of traffic flowing to their properties once they’re up and running."
Washington Post Licenses Publishing Technology to Tronc - WSJ

Google’s Allo app can reveal what you’ve searched to your friends - Recode

Conversational context crossing

"A unique feature of Allo is that you can use Assistant while in the middle of a conversation with a friend. You could, for example, ask Assistant to search for restaurants in a certain area, while you’re talking to a friend about where to eat.

But Assistant isn’t perfect, and sometimes it responds with answers unrelated to questions at hand, or it will respond with an answer to an earlier question — and it’s then that it can inadvertently reveal a previous search query.

In the middle of our conversation, my friend directed Assistant to identify itself. Instead of offering a name or a pithy retort, it responded with a link from Harry Potter fan website Pottermore. The link led to an extract from “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

But the response was not merely a non sequitur. It was a result related to previous searches my friend said he had done a few days earlier."
Google’s Allo app can reveal what you’ve searched to your friends - Recode

Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones? - The New York Times

Interesting times
"But researchers are starting to ponder an intriguing question: Are teenagers using drugs less in part because they are constantly stimulated and entertained by their computers and phones?

The possibility is worth exploring, they say, because use of smartphones and tablets has exploded over the same period that drug use has declined. This correlation does not mean that one phenomenon is causing the other, but scientists say interactive media appears to play to similar impulses as drug experimentation, including sensation-seeking and the desire for independence.
Or it might be that gadgets simply absorb a lot of time that could be used for other pursuits, including partying."
Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones? - The New York Times

Monday, March 13, 2017

Beware Collaboration-Tool Overload - WSJ

A collaboration market overview Microsoft is probably very pleased to see on the eve of the general availability of Microsoft Teams

"There are few markets in corporate computing hotter right now than collaboration applications and services. But with that success comes a challenge: How do the providers of those apps and services hold on to customers who are feeling overloaded on collaboration?

Startups such as Box Inc. and Slack Technologies Inc. have soared to billion-dollar valuations by offering workers new ways to share documents, create group chat sites, videoconference and more. Tech giants including Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc. have added collaboration apps and services to augment their email franchises. And last fall, Facebook Inc., rolled out its Workplace by Facebook collaboration service aimed at corporate customers."
Beware Collaboration-Tool Overload - WSJ

Apple's Swift becomes 10th most popular programming language - SiliconANGLE

Swift momentum

"The open-source Swift programming language first pioneered by Apple Inc. has risen to become the 10th most popular of all languages, according to an analysis by TIOBE Software BV, a company that specializes in assessing and tracking the quality of software

Swift, which was open-sourced in 2015, claims numerous advantages over more established programming languages including safety, speed and approachable syntax. The language also combines modern features like garbage collection (a form of automatic memory management) and type safety with readability and documentation."
Apple's Swift becomes 10th most popular programming language - SiliconANGLE

Reports: Intel buying Mobileye for up to $16B to expand in self-driving tech | TechCrunch

Accelerating the Intel outside strategy; also see Confirmed: Intel is paying $15.3 billion to acquire Mobileye, a computer vision firm specializing in autonomous cars (VentureBeat)
"Mobileye went public on the Nasdaq in 2014 and currently has a market cap of about $10.5 billion. It’s trading up slightly, 0.83 percent, ahead of the market opening.

Intel had been a leader in processors at the peak of the PC era, although it has competed hard (and often lost) as smartphones overtook the larger devices as consumers’ computers of choice.

Moving deeper into self-driving technology is part of Intel’s bigger strategy to build up its position in emerging areas of computing. Other verticals that Intel has focused on include connected “objects” (IoT) and virtual and augmented reality. It has been following through on this strategy with acquisitions as well as organic growth."
Reports: Intel buying Mobileye for up to $16B to expand in self-driving tech | TechCrunch

Vint Cerf: It's on all of us to fight online abuse, fake news - CNET

Another timely internet reality check

""This is a sociological problem in large measure," said Vint Cerf, speaking at the SXSW Conference and Festivals. "Our technology has outraced our intuition about its social consequences."

His comments came just hours after Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, published an open letter detailing his worries about the web, including problems like "fake news." Though harassment and fake news have been problems since the internet's early days, those problems have risen to prominence with the sprawling popularity of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and with the bitterness that flavored the US presidential election campaigns last year.

Cerf, who works at Google as its chief internet evangelist, likened social pressure against bad online behavior to the force of gravity.

"One solution is to say, 'Don't do that, it's wrong, it morally wrong,' which sounds weak," he said. "Gravity is the weakest force ... but when you get big mass, it's powerful.""
Vint Cerf: It's on all of us to fight online abuse, fake news - CNET

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Tim Berners-Lee calls for tighter regulation of online political advertising | Technology | The Guardian

Also see Tim Berners-Lee: I invented the web. Here are three things we need to change to save it (The Guardian) and Delivering Digital Equality: The Web Foundation’s 2017 – 2022 Strategy (World Wide Web Foundation)
"Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the worldwide web, has called for tighter regulation of online political advertising, which he says is being used in “unethical ways”.

“We urgently need to close the ‘internet blind spot’ in the regulation of political campaigning,” he said, writing in an open letter marking the 28th anniversary of his invention.

The 61-year-old British computer scientist described how political advertising has become a sophisticated and targeted industry, drawing on enormous pools of personal data on Facebook and Google. This means that campaigns create personalised ads for individuals – as many as 50,000 variations each day on Facebook during the 2016 US election, he said."
Tim Berners-Lee calls for tighter regulation of online political advertising | Technology | The Guardian

Friday, March 10, 2017

Cloudera Said to Tap Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, BofA for IPO - Bloomberg

Looks like Intel wants what remains of its $740M back

"Cloudera Inc., the big-data company backed by Intel Corp., is working with Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. on its initial public offering, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The company, based in Palo Alto, California, has filed paperwork for an IPO confidentially with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Cloudera is planning to go public this year and is eyeing a valuation of about $4.1 billion, said the people, in line with what it fetched in its last private funding round three years ago."
Cloudera Said to Tap Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, BofA for IPO - Bloomberg

Google Cloud SQL Documentation  |  PostgreSQL Database Engine for Cloud SQL  |  Google Cloud Platform

See Google Cloud Platform bolsters support for relational databases (Google Cloud Platform Blog) for more details on Google's relational database services

"Google Cloud SQL for PostgreSQL is a fully-managed database service that makes it easy to set up, maintain, manage, and administer your PostgreSQL relational databases on Google Cloud Platform.
Cloud SQL for PostgreSQL will be available for all users in the Google Cloud Console by March 13th, 2017."
Google Cloud SQL Documentation  |  PostgreSQL Database Engine for Cloud SQL  |  Google Cloud Platform

Musk Bets He Can Fix Aussie Power Woes in 100 Days or It’s Free - Bloomberg

All in down under

"Billionaire Elon Musk bets he can solve a looming energy crisis in Australia within 100 days by deploying Tesla Inc. technology to plug a supply gap which has caused power blackouts.

In a conversation on Twitter with Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, Musk backed up an earlier commitment Tesla made Thursday to deploy its Powerwall and Powerpack products to supply up to 100 megawatt hours of power.

“Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free,” Musk wrote on Twitter on Friday. Cannon-Brookes responded to Musk "you’re on mate" and asked for a quote at "mates rates" on the cost of installing a 100-megawatt system."
Musk Bets He Can Fix Aussie Power Woes in 100 Days or It’s Free - Bloomberg

Google’s new version of Hangouts looks a lot like Slack - Recode

Or, as Charles Fitzgerald put it, "In other news, strike Google from list of possible Slack acquirers." Also see Google goes after Slack and splits Hangouts into Chat and Meet (TechCrunch)
"Hangout Chat is part of Google’s newest push to sell its office tools to big businesses as part of its bigger aim to take on Microsoft Office. Verizon recently switched from Office to G Suite.

And the update to Hangout Chat appears to be designed to compete with Slack. The feature will be available to G Suite customers who apply for access. The new app allows users to create virtual rooms (much like on Slack) where they can hold group conversations, and to break conversations off into threads.

Chat also includes a new bot for automatically scheduling meetings: When called up, @meet will compare Google Calendar schedules of chat participants to automatically pick an open time."
Google’s new version of Hangouts looks a lot like Slack - Recode

Stationary Bike Startup Peloton Seeks Unicorn Valuation - Bloomberg

A ride to nowhere?

"Peloton Interactive Inc., the company that sells exercise bikes with tablets that stream live spin classes, is seeking to raise at least $120 million at a valuation of $1.2 billion, two people familiar with the company's fundraising said.

The bikes are $1,995 with a $250 delivery fee. To take the classes, cyclists must purchase a $39 monthly class subscription. The five-year-old company, based in New York, has developed something of a cult following among busy consumers who relish a class atmosphere without having to leave the house."
Stationary Bike Startup Peloton Seeks Unicorn Valuation - Bloomberg

The Truth About the WikiLeaks C.I.A. Cache - The New York Times

From a timely WikiLeaks realty check; also see WikiLeaks Will Help Tech Companies Fix Security Flaws, Assange Says (NYT)
"If anything in the WikiLeaks revelations is a bombshell, it is just how strong these encrypted apps appear to be. Since it doesn’t have a means of easy mass surveillance of such apps, the C.I.A. seems to have had to turn its attention to the harder and often high-risk task of breaking into individual devices one by one.

Which brings us to WikiLeaks’ misinformation campaign. An accurate tweet accompanying the cache would have said something like, “If the C.I.A. goes after your specific phone and hacks it, the agency can look at its content.” But that, of course, wouldn’t have caused alarm and defeatism about the prospects of secure conversations. [...]
WikiLeaks seems to have a playbook for its disinformation campaigns. The first step is to dump many documents at once — rather than allowing journalists to scrutinize them and absorb their significance before publication. The second step is to sensationalize the material with misleading news releases and tweets. The third step is to sit back and watch as the news media unwittingly promotes the WikiLeaks agenda under the auspices of independent reporting."
The Truth About the WikiLeaks C.I.A. Cache - The New York Times

Thursday, March 09, 2017

WordPress Collaborative Editing | Matt Mullenweg

I'm guessing Google might not entirely agree with this description; see Introducing WordPress.com for Google Docs: A New Way Forward for Collaborative Editing (WordPress blog) for more details

"I think this is highly complementary to the work we’re doing with the new Editor in core WordPress. Why? Google Docs represents the web pinnacle of the WordPerfect / Word legacy of editing “pages”, what I’ll call a document editor. It runs on the web, but it’s not native to the web in that its fundamental paradigm is still about the document itself. With the new WordPress Editor the blocks will be all about bringing together building blocks from all over — maps, videos, galleries, forms, images — and making them like Legos you can use to build a rich, web-native post or page.

We’re going to look into some collaborative features, but Google’s annotations, comments, and real-time co-editing are years ahead there. So if you’re drafting something that looks closer to something in the 90s you could print out, Docs will be the best place to start and collaborate (and better than Medium). If you want to built a richer experience, something that really only makes sense on an interactive screen, that’s what the new WordPress editor will be for."
WordPress Collaborative Editing | Matt Mullenweg

Kauai is moving from diesel generators to renewable energy with help from Tesla | Ars Technica

See Tesla built a huge solar energy plant on the island of Kauai (The Verge) for more details; tangentially, see Will electric cars soon have solar roofs? Toyota and Tesla say yes. (ThinkProgress)
"On Wednesday, Tesla and the electricity cooperative that serves the Hawaiian island of Kauai opened a 13 MW solar farm combined with a 52 MWh battery installation to help the island reduce its fossil fuel consumption by about 1.6 million gallons of diesel and petroleum per year. 
The batteries are intended to store Kauai’s abundant solar energy resources during the day and dispatch them when necessary, often at night. Solar City, the solar panel company that Tesla bought last year, built a similar installation on the island of Ta’u in American Samoa. That system serves 600 people. In California, several battery-making companies, including Tesla and AES Energy Storage, have built battery storage for that state’s grid, too. (Although in California’s case, while the batteries allow for more renewables to be added to the grid, the batteries aren’t necessarily tied to renewable energy, so all kinds of electricity is stored equally for dispatch during periods of electricity shortage)."
Kauai is moving from diesel generators to renewable energy with help from Tesla | Ars Technica

More U.S. Households Now Have Netflix Than a DVR | Variety

Later in the article: "LRG president Bruce Leichtman noted that Netflix’s penetration is boosted by password sharing, with previous surveys indicating nearly 20% of Netflix customers share account access with those outside their household."

"Netflix has hit a new milestone: More U.S. television households now have the streaming service than a digital video recorder, according to a recent study.

About 54% of U.S. adults said they have Netflix in their household — while 53% have a DVR, according to Leichtman Research Group’s annual on-demand study. It’s the first time that households with Netflix (including those that use shared accounts) have surpassed the level of those with a DVR in the history of LRG’s studies. In 2011, according to the research firm, 44% of TV households had a DVR and 28% had Netflix."
More U.S. Households Now Have Netflix Than a DVR | Variety

Uber’s new head of its AI labs has stepped down from his role - Recode

Busy days for Uber's HR and PR departments; also see Programmers in the Valley are pressuring their friends to quit working at Uber (Business Insider)

"The director of Uber’s artificial intelligence lab, Gary Marcus, has stepped down from his role after a little more than three months. Marcus made the announcement on Facebook, adding that he was starting a new job at Uber as “special adviser for AI.”

Marcus, who will no longer be an Uber employee even as special adviser, joined the company in December when the ride-hail company acquired the AI and machine learning startup he co-founded in 2015, Geometric Intelligence. As part of the acquisition, the company started and put Marcus in charge of its AI lab."
Uber’s new head of its AI labs has stepped down from his role - Recode

Amazon just confirmed its 10th book store, signaling this is way more than an experiment - Recode

Perhaps coming soon to a mall near you

"If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Amazon really likes the traction it has seen in the four stores that have opened so far and is committed to becoming a physical retailer at scale. New locations are opening in places like Chicago, New York City and the suburbs of New Jersey later this year.

That doesn’t mean the stores still aren’t puzzling. Why does Amazon — bookstore killer — want to become a physical book purveyor? One smart take has been that the stores are as much about selling Amazon devices like the Echo and Kindle as they are about selling books.

When I visited the Seattle location last month, these devices were indeed on display in the physical center of the store. Amazon’s Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky also admitted as much on the company’s last earnings call."
Amazon just confirmed its 10th book store, signaling this is way more than an experiment - Recode

Google Adds Cloud Customers, Nabbing Verizon From Microsoft - Bloomberg

Check the full article for a summary of the Cloud Next '17 day 1 keynote; also see Eric Schmidt: ‘Big data is so powerful, nation states will fight’ over it (Recode)
"Alphabet Inc. unveiled new customers and partners for its cloud storage service in an attempt to boost the standing of Google’s business sales unit, which lags behind Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

Diane Greene, Google’s cloud chief, named several recent clients at the company’s event Wednesday in San Francisco, including Colgate-Palmolive Co., HSBC Holdings Plc and EBay Inc. Google also scored a big win from a rival: Verizon Communications Inc. announced that it has moved more than 150,000 employees to Google’s productivity apps, called G Suite. Previously, Verizon used the Office app suite from Microsoft, according a person familiar with the arrangement."
Google Adds Cloud Customers, Nabbing Verizon From Microsoft - Bloomberg

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Pinterest has acquired Jelly, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s Q&A startup - Recode

Also see Big News—Pinterest Acquires Jelly! (Jelly blog)

"Pinterest announced Wednesday that it has acquired Jelly for an undisclosed sum. (Bloomberg reports Pinterest is buying Jelly with stock.) Stone will work part-time at Pinterest as an adviser to co-founder and Chief Product Officer Evan Sharp; Finkel is joining Pinterest full-time.

A Pinterest spokesperson says it’s currently “discussing next steps” with the rest of Jelly’s employees. (The team is fewer than 10 people.)

It sounds like an “acqhire,” though, because Stone says he doesn’t know what is going to happen to Jelly’s app. Pinterest is a search company, and Jelly was working on search technology, and he claims it was simply a great fit."
Pinterest has acquired Jelly, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s Q&A startup - Recode

Google is acquiring data science community Kaggle | TechCrunch

The Next '17 conference starts today at noon Eastern

"Sources tell us that Google is acquiring Kaggle, a platform that hosts data science and machine learning competitions. Details about the transaction remain somewhat vague, but given that Google is hosting its Cloud Next conference in San Francisco this week, the official announcement could come as early as tomorrow.

Reached by phone, Kaggle co-founder CEO Anthony Goldbloom declined to deny that the acquisition is happening. Google itself declined “to comment on rumors.”

Kaggle, which has about half a million data scientists on its platform, was founded by Goldbloom and Ben Hamner in 2010. The service got an early start and even though it has a few competitors like DrivenData, TopCoder and HackerRank, it has managed to stay well ahead of them by focusing on its specific niche. The service is basically the de facto home for running data science — and machine learning — competitions."
Google is acquiring data science community Kaggle | TechCrunch

Pinterest will now let you search for products using any image you find online — without visiting Pinterest - Recode

See New! Visual discovery, all around the web (Pinterest blog) for details

"The idea here is that Pinterest wants to be the search engine for images, and that includes images you see on other websites or even images you come across in the real world. As co-founder Evan Sharp explained it at a press event last month: “You shouldn’t have to put your thoughts into words to find great ideas.”

The “visual search” technology is not new — you could already use it, but only on Pinterest’s website. Eventually, Pinterest would love to help users buy the products they find see online but don’t know where to buy them.

But that won’t be the main priority for the new browser tool, at least not right away. While it’s possible Pinterest’s recommended images may include similar-looking items that are for sale through the service, called “buyable pins,” the company is “not prioritizing” those kinds of pins, according to a company spokesperson."
Pinterest will now let you search for products using any image you find online — without visiting Pinterest - Recode

WikiLeaks: The CIA is using popular TVs, smartphones and cars to spy on their owners - The Washington Post

Also see With WikiLeaks Claims of C.I.A. Hacking, How Vulnerable Is Your Smartphone? (NYT)

"While many of the attack technologies had been previously discussed at cybersecurity conferences, experts were startled to see evidence that the CIA had turned so many theoretical vulnerabilities into functioning attack tools against staples of modern life. These include widely used Internet routers, smartphones, and Mac and Windows computers.

In the case of a tool called “Weeping Angel” for attacking Samsung SmartTVs, WikiLeaks wrote, “After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on, In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.”

The CIA reportedly also has studied whether it could infect vehicle control systems for cars and trucks, which WikiLeaks alleged could be used to conduct “nearly undetectable assassinations.”"
WikiLeaks: The CIA is using popular TVs, smartphones and cars to spy on their owners - The Washington Post