Thursday, April 18, 2019

Apple’s Settlement With Qualcomm Starts the Clock on Its Own 5G Modem | Bloomberg

On a related note, see Apple, Qualcomm will bring you a 5G iPhone -- just not this year | CNET
""Apple will continue to build its internal expertise as a very long-term potential second vertically integrated source to Qualcomm," Matt Ramsay, an analyst at Cowen & Co., said. "But we do believe that Qualcomm’s 5G leadership has resulted in Qualcomm being the sole-source modem supplier for Apple’s 5G lineup over the next 5-plus years."

Still, Apple isn’t giving up on its goal to be self-sufficient when it comes to modems. While its legal battle with Qualcomm raged, Apple began work on its own component. It has teams dedicated to this in San Diego, Cupertino, California, and Munich, Germany.

There are a couple hundred Apple engineers working on modems in the UTC innovation hub of San Diego, people with knowledge of the matter said. This team will also integrate 5G modems from Qualcomm into future iPhones, and support Intel modems for the current models, said these people, asking not to be identified discussing private work. Apple plans to hire hundreds more for the initiative."
Apple’s Settlement With Qualcomm Starts the Clock on Its Own 5G Modem | Bloomberg

Why is Everybody Getting into Wireless Earbuds? | Tech.pinions

In other voice news, see Facebook confirms it’s working on an AI voice assistant for Portal and Oculus products | The Verge
"Ambient computing and voice-first are certainly big drivers for both Microsoft and Amazon. As computing power is spread out across devices and digital assistants are helping to bridge our experience across them, voice has grown in importance as an interface. Many consumers are, however, less comfortable shouting commands across a room or speaking to technology outside the “safety” of their own home. As voice moves into the office, the need and desire to be able to speak quietly to an assistant and hear it back is even more evident.

Wireless earbuds that can be worn comfortably throughout the day allow us to build a better relationship with our assistants and, even more so, build our reliance. Interestingly, I would argue, this is where AirPods have not been as successful as Apple might have hoped for but certainly, through no fault of their own but more due to some limitations Siri has."
Why is Everybody Getting into Wireless Earbuds? | Tech.pinions

Pinterest Prices I.P.O. at $19 a Share, for a $12.7 Billion Valuation | NYT

A big day for tech IPOs
"Among the current crop of I.P.O.s, investors have shown more excitement for Zoom, a video conferencing company that also priced its shares above expectations on Wednesday. Unlike its unicorn peers, Zoom is profitable, a fact that paid off with a ninefold increase from its last private market valuation. Zoom will sell shares at a valuation of about $9.2 billion, up from its $1 billion private market valuation.

When Pinterest started to talk to investors about its I.P.O., it set a conservative price range that valued it at below $12 billion, the private valuation it has had since 2015. The strategy may stave off a frenzied spike and immediate drop like Lyft’s."
Pinterest Prices I.P.O. at $19 a Share, for a $12.7 Billion Valuation | NYT

Bendgate 2.0: Samsung’s $2,000 foldable phone is already breaking | Ars Technica

"You're unboxing it wrong" (see Samsung speaks up about broken Galaxy Fold review units | Engadget)
"Samsung's futuristic Galaxy Fold is launching this month, and the device has already made its way to a select group of reviewers and influencers. During the run-up to the device's launch, there were concerns about the durability of the folding display, and now after just a few days with the public, the device is already experiencing problems. There are numerous reports of Samsung's $2,000 device breaking after a single day, sometimes due to poor durability, other times due to user error.

First up, we have a report from Dieter Bohn at The Verge, who had a piece of debris get under the Galaxy Fold display (possibly through the hinge?) and press up against the back of the display. In addition to causing an unsightly bump in the OLED panel, it eventually pressed against the display enough to break it, killing a few horizontal and vertical rows of pixels."
Bendgate 2.0: Samsung’s $2,000 foldable phone is already breaking | Ars Technica

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Big carmakers are placing vast bets on electric vehicles | Economist

From a timely EV reality check; also see Plummeting battery prices to make electric cars cheaper than gas cars in 3 years | ThinkProgress
"The most daring by a long way is vw. The German group’s heft—it produces 10m cars a year—affords it economies of scale only Toyota could hope to match. The €30bn vw plans to spend on developing evs over the next five years, plus €50bn to fit them with batteries, leaves all other carmakers in the dust. In March Herbert Diess, its chief executive, promised 70 new electric models by 2028, rather than 50 as previously pledged, and 22m evs delivered over the next ten years. The company is contemplating a huge investment in a “gigafactory” to supply its own batteries rather than depending on outside suppliers.

vw is already developing a dedicated platform and converting entire factories to ev production. The first, at Zwickau in Germany, will eventually turn out 330,000 cars a year for the vw brand as well as Audi and seat. Its medium-sized id hatchback, to be shipped next year, will cost around €30,000, similar to an equivalent diesel-powered Golf, and travel 400-600km (250-370 miles) on a single charge. On April 14th in Shanghai Mr Diess unveiled a sport-utility vehicle to compete with Tesla’s snazzy Model x in China from 2021. Once the range of evs reaches full production in 2022, vw believes, such models will start breaking even. By 2025, when it hopes one-quarter of its output will be electric, they should be as profitable as petrol cars."
 Big carmakers are placing vast bets on electric vehicles | Economist

Pinterest Doesn’t Want to Be Called a Social Media Company | Bloomberg

Pinterest and Zoom will test post-LYFT IPO market dynamics tomorrow
"Cordwell gave Pinterest its first bullish review last week with the equivalent of a buy rating. He set a 12-month price target of $23, implying the company may return as much as 53 percent if the IPO prices at the low end of its expected range, or $15.

Pinterest calls itself a “visual discovery” platform for people to get ideas for different aspects of their lives, whether that’s curating a wardrobe, planning a vacation or wedding, or furnishing a new home. In a video to investors, Silbermann illustrates why Pinterest is unique. He describes social media platforms as a way to document the past and entertain oneself; while Pinterest is a “utility” for future activities.

“Social media at its best makes you feel socially validated, while Pinterest at best makes you feel creative and empowered to act,” Silbermann says."
Pinterest Doesn’t Want to Be Called a Social Media Company | Bloomberg

Apple planning Luna Display-like desktop extension feature for macOS 10.15, codenamed ‘Sidecar’ | 9to5Mac

Looks like I may need to find and charge my Apple Pencil...
"Previously, Astro HQ came up with a solution, Luna Display, that allows Mac users to use their iPad as an external display. There are many solutions on the market for that, but Luna Display has become the top one given that it’s a hardware product leveraging the power of the GPU so the experience is as seamless as possible.

Now, Apple is working on making that seamless experience native to the Mac. According to people familiar with the development of macOS 10.15 – the next major version of Apple’s desktop OS – the new system will have a feature that allows users to send any window of any app to an external display. The external display can be an actual external display connected to the Mac or even an iPad.
[...]
Users with an iPad that supports Apple Pencil will also be able to draw with the Pencil on iPad when it’s being used as an external display for the Mac, effectively turning the iPad into a Wacom-like tablet. Engineers are also working on options that will allow windows to be easily snapped to one side of the screen, similar to a feature that already exists on Windows." 
Apple planning Luna Display-like desktop extension feature for macOS 10.15, codenamed ‘Sidecar’ | 9to5Mac

IBM stock slips after revenue shortfall | CNBC

I'm old enough to remember when IBM was a hardware company...
"IBM has changed its reporting structure for the first-quarter earnings report. The company no longer has a Technology Services & Cloud Platforms segment. Now it has Cloud & Cognitive Software and Global Technology Services business segments. The company’s consolidated results are unchanged.

IBM’s Global Technology Services segment, the biggest segment in the new reporting structure, produced revenue of $6.88 billion, down 7 percent year over year. It includes infrastructure and cloud services, along with technology support services.

The Cloud & Cognitive Software segment -- which contains cognitive applications, cloud and data platforms and transaction processing platforms -- came out to $5.04 billion in revenue, down 1.5 percent."
The new segment structure (from IBM's 1Q 2019 Earnings presentation [pdf]):
IBM stock slips after revenue shortfall | CNBC

As Netflix Contends With More Rivals, Hulu Stands Out | NYT

Check the full article for a detailed Netflix/Hulu comparison
"Amazon, AT&T, Apple and the Walt Disney Company have spent billions to create or bolster their own streaming networks to take on the giant in the field. Some, like Apple and Amazon, are meant to be aggregators — selling both original content and offering shows from channels like HBO — making them similar to traditional cable providers. Others, like AT&T and Disney, have positioned themselves as services that sell only their content — for now.

But Netflix remains the industry leader. The company has come a long way since its early days of mailing off DVDs in red envelopes. It added 7.8 million new customers through the end of March, according to the first-quarter report it issued on Tuesday, for a total of 148 million across the globe, with 60 million in the United States. Its subscriber growth has slowed, however, more in the United States than elsewhere, partly because of price increases and stiffening competition. The streaming service booked $344 million in profit on $4.5 billion in sales in the quarter ending in March.

For the moment, though, Netflix is soundly beating its streaming rivals — in subscribers, viewing time and library of content. But one is closer than the others: Hulu."
As Netflix Contends With More Rivals, Hulu Stands Out | NYT

Technology Apple and Qualcomm have settled their epic lawsuit over chip patents | Washington Post

A dark day for intellectual property-focused law firms worldwide...
"Qualcomm is still facing headwinds, including from Apple, which opened an office in San Diego in an effort to hire wireless-industry talent and develop its own modem chip. The wireless industry is competitive, and if Qualcomm can’t stay at the forefront of the technology, it could lose its edge.

Tuesday’s settlement is the culmination of a case that began in January 2017, when Apple alleged that the chipmaker and wireless pioneer had a stranglehold on the market for wireless modem chips that, until recently, were used in the iPhone. Apple contends that Qualcomm leveraged its position to overcharge for its patent licenses.
Rather than bend to Apple’s demands, Qualcomm countersued. Then Apple sued back. There were more than 80 lawsuits between the two companies in Asia, Europe and the United States."
 Technology Apple and Qualcomm have settled their epic lawsuit over chip patents | Washington Post

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Apple Podcasts: An Infoslob Perspective

I published another conceptual data model post -- exploring Apple's powerful but not-always-intuitive Podcasts app

Apple Podcasts: An Infoslob Perspective | Infoslob

Notes and Domino Return to Their Roots | CMSWire

Not dead yet (but note the author bio: "Stefan Pfeiffer is working in Marketing for IBM in Germany")
"The upcoming version 11 promises to make Domino even stronger as a low code or even no code environment. The continuous support of JavaScript for future-proof Domino applications is only one sign of this change. In Domino v11, HCL plans to further develop its JavaScript programming model. Other important enhancements include the possibility to run Domino applications on Android or iOS devices, which opens up use cases that leverage the still unique replication features of the platform, allowing developers to work with data without being connected to the network.

IBM and in turn HCL have committed to detach themselves from the heavyweight Eclipse framework. As mentioned, we've already seen the first prototypes of the Notes App that run on iPad, iPhone and Android. A "lightweight" client is in the making. Meanwhile, Notes applications can also run in the browser due to streamlining. All this has the goal of freeing Domino and Notes from the nimbus of outdated software and pointing the way to a modern future. "Domino was the first no-SQL database and it is better than ever today," HCL vice president and general manager, collaborative workflow patterns Richard Jefts is quoted as saying."
Notes and Domino Return to Their Roots | CMSWire

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quits Facebook, calls social media a ‘public health risk’ | Washington Post

Later in the article: "Ocasio-Cortez, who writes all of her own tweets and Instagram posts, said she’s trying to limit her consumption of social media to the workweek."
"In an interview Sunday with the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery,” the New York Democrat said she stopped using her Facebook account and was scaling back on all social media, which she described as a “public health risk” because it can lead to “increased isolation, depression, anxiety, addiction, escapism.”

Ocasio-Cortez, 29, who burst onto the national stage after defeating a high-ranking incumbent, said her departure from Facebook was a “big deal” because the platform had been crucial to her campaign. She still has accounts on the site, she said, and according to the company’s ad library, her official Facebook account has dozens of active advertisements sponsored by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Congress. Among the ads are calls to support her signature Green New Deal, and fundraising pleas to support progressive legislation and to counteract a super PAC aligned against her."
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quits Facebook, calls social media a ‘public health risk’ | Washington Post

AT&T may have just signaled the end of Hulu as you know it today | The Verge

On a related note, see Disney and the Future of TV | Stratechery
"Hulu might look very different a year from now. AT&T has sold its roughly 10 percent stake in Hulu back to the streaming service today for $1.43 billion dollars, making it that much more likely that Hulu will become a Disney-centric service in the future.

Just last year, Hulu was still divided evenly between Disney, Fox, and Comcast — each owning a 30 percent cut of the company — alongside AT&T’s roughly 10 percent stake. But Disney gained a controlling interest in Hulu when it bought Fox, and the AT&T sale means Disney now owns a staggering 66 percent of the service, with Comcast owning the remaining 33 percent."
AT&T may have just signaled the end of Hulu as you know it today | The Verge

SpaceX loses the center core of its Falcon Heavy rocket due to choppy seas | The Verge

Make that a bit less than 92% reusable...
"SpaceX successfully landed the center core of its Falcon Heavy rocket on a drone ship last week, but the vehicle accidentally fell into the ocean while in transit to the Florida coast. The company blamed the loss on choppy seas.

“Over the weekend, due to rough sea conditions, SpaceX’s recovery team was unable to secure the center core booster for its return trip to Port Canaveral,” SpaceX said in a statement to The Verge. “As conditions worsened with eight to ten foot swells, the booster began to shift and ultimately was unable to remain upright. While we had hoped to bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precedence. We do not expect future missions to be impacted.”"
SpaceX loses the center core of its Falcon Heavy rocket due to choppy seas | The Verge

The World’s Biggest Electric Vehicle Company Looks Nothing Like Tesla | Bloomberg

Transform different
"Even for a nation of superlatives, China has adopted EVs at a stunning pace. Thanks to generous government subsidies and municipal regulations that make owning an internal combustion vehicle in many cities inconvenient, expensive, or both, China accounts for more than half the world’s purchases of electric cars. More EVs were sold in Shanghai last year than in Germany, France, or the U.K.; the city of Hangzhou, smallish by Chinese standards, had higher sales than all of Japan. Virtually all of Shenzhen’s 20,000 taxis are electric BYDs, compared with fewer than 20 of any make in New York. More than 500,000 electric buses ply Chinese roads, compared with fewer than 1,000 in the U.S.

Eager to beat back city smog and support a growing industry, the Chinese government has said it intends to eliminate fossil fuel-powered vehicles by an as-yet-unspecified date, probably about 2040. Given the scale of the market, China’s demands stand to shape 21st century carmaking every bit as much as the American consumer’s shaped the 20th—giving it pole position in the transportation industry and all the strategic advantages that entails."
The World’s Biggest Electric Vehicle Company Looks Nothing Like Tesla | Bloomberg

Monday, April 15, 2019

Tracking Phones, Google Is a Dragnet for the Police | NYT

On a related note, see We’re Not Going to Take It Anymore | NYT (Kara Swisher revisits Scott "“You have zero privacy anyway,” he said. “Get over it!” McNealy)
"The technique illustrates a phenomenon privacy advocates have long referred to as the “if you build it, they will come” principle — anytime a technology company creates a system that could be used in surveillance, law enforcement inevitably comes knocking. Sensorvault, according to Google employees, includes detailed location records involving at least hundreds of millions of devices worldwide and dating back nearly a decade.

The new orders, sometimes called “geofence” warrants, specify an area and a time period, and Google gathers information from Sensorvault about the devices that were there. It labels them with anonymous ID numbers, and detectives look at locations and movement patterns to see if any appear relevant to the crime. Once they narrow the field to a few devices they think belong to suspects or witnesses, Google reveals the users’ names and other information."
Tracking Phones, Google Is a Dragnet for the Police | NYT

Apple reportedly spending $500 million to fund development of 100+ games for its Apple Arcade subscription service | 9to5Mac

Playing for keeps
"Who knew, Apple has deep pockets? The company is reportedly spending billions of dollars a year on Apple TV+ original content, will pay about $480 million for the Texture acquisition which ultimately became News+, and is reportedly also spending several million dollars per game in Apple Arcade.

The Financial Times says the company is spending ‘several million dollars each’ on more than 100 games, putting Apple Arcade’s budget in excess of $500 million dollars. At its March event, Apple announced that Arcade would launch in the fall but did not announce pricing.

The report also says that Apple is offering an ‘extra incentive’ to a developer if their game remains exclusive to Apple Arcade."
Apple reportedly spending $500 million to fund development of 100+ games for its Apple Arcade subscription service | 9to5Mac

One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority | NYT

Later in the article: "The practice makes China a pioneer in applying next-generation technology to watch its people, potentially ushering in a new era of automated racism."
"The Chinese government has drawn wide international condemnation for its harsh crackdown on ethnic Muslims in its western region, including holding as many as a million of them in detention camps.

Now, documents and interviews show that the authorities are also using a vast, secret system of advanced facial recognition technology to track and control the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority. It is the first known example of a government intentionally using artificial intelligence for racial profiling, experts said."
One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority | NYT

Friday, April 12, 2019

SpaceX Recovered $6 Million Fairings So Falcon Heavy Will Be 92% Reusable | Nextbigfuture

Later in the article: "Reusing three engines and a fairing would be $96 million out of $103.5 million."
"Elon Musk tweeted that both SpaceX Falcon Heavy payload fairings were recovered for the first time. They will be reused on the Starlink satellite launch mission.

The two side boosters and the center core were landed and will be reused.

This means that SpaceX will be able to reuse 92% of this Falcon Heavy launch. Only the roughly $7.5 million second stage will not be reused."
SpaceX Recovered $6 Million Fairings So Falcon Heavy Will Be 92% Reusable | Nextbigfuture

Julian Assange Might Have Already Won | Politico

Somehow I suspect Trump's enablers are not in a rush to have Julian Assange testify, e.g., about 2016 Wikileaks activities
"But if you look at the indictment, on a very narrow charge of computer hacking conspiracy, it’s evident that the government stayed well clear of the dangerous notion of prosecuting a publisher for publishing. And, if anything, Assange might get exactly the fight he’s looking for, served up to him by the government he purports to loathe.

If the case plays out as expected, he’ll first get a platform in Britain to argue to a worldwide audience that it’s all a political setup. And if he loses that round, and the case does come back to the United States, he might well get the government to serve him up, by law, the kind of massive document haul he loves.

Given the broad constellation of charges prosecutors have contemplated throwing at Assange, including the Espionage Act, Wednesday’s indictment is very weak tea. Unless prosecutors charge Assange with bigger crimes—something Reuters reports the Justice Department may do—the former fugitive could succeed in using British extradition proceedings to avoid U.S. prosecution."
Julian Assange Might Have Already Won | Politico

P&G Puts Ad Platforms Like Facebook, Google on Notice | Bloomberg

Later in the article: "Pritchard also brought up a key point of friction in the industry. He wants the ad platforms to use a standardized way of identifying individual consumers, so that advertisers can track people as they move across the internet and make sure they’re not repeatedly hitting a consumer with the same ad."
"In a speech at an industry conference Thursday, P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard blasted the digital media industry for lack of transparency, fraud, privacy breaches and a proliferation of violent and harmful content placed next to ads. He said his company, which spends billions of dollars on marketing products from paper towels to shampoo every year, would move its money to services that can guarantee effectiveness, are completely free of offensive content and are more willing to share consumer data with advertisers.

“We’ve been tolerant for too long,” Pritchard said in prepared remarks. “It’s not acceptable to have brands showing up where Opioids are being offered, where illegal drugs are promoted, where abhorrent behavior is present or where violence is seen. The apologies are heartfelt and appreciated, but that’s not good enough.”"
P&G Puts Ad Platforms Like Facebook, Google on Notice | Bloomberg

Disney’s new Netflix-killer will have a ton of movies and TV shows for $7 a month | Recode

Later in the article: "Oh, and one more thing: Disney+ will also feature shows and movies that previously belonged to 21st Century Fox, which Disney mostly absorbed this year. That means the service will also be the place to watch The Simpsons, for starters."
"Disney has been talking about its plan to create its own Netflix since the summer of 2017, but it’s been short on crucial details.

Now we have them: Disney+ will launch in the US on November 12, for $7 a month. It will have a very large library of old Disney movies and TV shows — crucially, including titles from its Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars catalog — along with new movies and series made exclusively for the streaming service. It won’t have any ads. And it will allow subscribers to download all of that stuff, and watch it offline, whenever they want.

For comparison: A standard Netflix subscription now costs $13 a month."
Disney’s new Netflix-killer will have a ton of movies and TV shows for $7 a month | Recode

Gartner and IDC agree: Global PC shipments fell to exactly 58.5 million in Q1 2019 | VentureBeat

So, are you reading this on an iPhone or an iPad?...
"The PC market is still in decline, according to research firms Gartner and IDC. That’s nothing new for the duo to agree on, but coincidentally they also (for the first time?) estimated the exact same number of PC shipments: 58.5 million in Q1 2019. Gartner and IDC also both found PC shipments were down globally year-over-year. So far, 2019 looks like more of the same.

After six years of quarterly PC shipment declines, 2018 brought a positive Q2, a flat Q3 … and then a negative Q4.

Gartner and IDC analysts have pointed to CPU shortages as contributing to this past quarter’s decline. But that just seems to be an excuse for reality: The PC simply isn’t as in-demand as it once was."
Gartner and IDC agree: Global PC shipments fell to exactly 58.5 million in Q1 2019 | VentureBeat

Uber, Losing $1.8 Billion a Year, Reveals I.P.O. Filing | NYT

Also see What Exactly Is Uber’s ‘Core Platform Contribution Margin’? | NYT
"The offering, which could value Uber at around $100 billion, is expected to reverberate through global financial markets and to solidify the company’s position as one of the most consequential technology firms of the past decade. The share sale would be the biggest since the Alibaba Group of China began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014, and would peg Uber’s value at more than four times that of United Airlines’ parent and double that of FedEx.

But the prospectus renewed questions about how sustainable Uber’s business actually is. The company said in the filing that it lost $1.8 billion in 2018, excluding certain transactions, on revenue of $11.3 billion. And the prospectus also showed that its rocket-ship trajectory for revenue growth was beginning to slow."
Meanwhile...
Uber, Losing $1.8 Billion a Year, Reveals I.P.O. Filing | NYT

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Senate Republicans renew their claims that Facebook, Google and Twitter censor conservatives | Washington Post

In other inscrutable intelligence news, see A new bill would force companies to check their algorithms for bias | The Verge for an overview of the Algorithmic Accountability Act (pdf)
"Republicans led by Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday pilloried Facebook, Google and Twitter over allegations they censor conservative users and content online, threatening federal regulation in response to claims that Democrats long have described as a hoax and a distraction.

The tensions played out over more than three hours at a Senate hearing where Cruz, the leader of the Judiciary Committee’s constitution-focused panel, pointed to reports that he said showed a “consistent pattern of political bias and censorship on the part of big tech.”

"Not only does big tech have the power to silence voices with which they disagree, but big tech likewise has the power to collate a person's feed so they only receive the news that comports with their own political agenda," Cruz said."
Senate Republicans renew their claims that Facebook, Google and Twitter censor conservatives | Washington Post

Hate Your Internet Provider? Look to Space | WSJ

Also see Can Jeff Bezos Make Money in Space? | WSJ (News+ link)
"If you hate your internet provider, the good news is that in the next five to 10 years, you may have the opportunity to ditch it in favor of a system that transcends regional monopolies, requires no visits by the cable guy and follows you wherever you go. That’s because just over the horizon there will be constellations of satellites orbiting the Earth at high speed, providing fast satellite internet directly from space. The bad news is that you might just be trading one monopolist for another, since the companies that have embarked on the race to connect you to the internet through satellites include the ones that already comprise much of Big Tech: Facebook, Google and Amazon.
The reasons this is happening now are myriad, but it wouldn’t be happening as quickly if not for the whims of eccentric billionaires—notably Jeff Bezos through Amazon’s just-revealed subsidiary Project Kuiper, Elon Musk of SpaceX, and Richard Branson of Virgin Orbit—all of whom have plans to launch satellites to provide internet."
Hate Your Internet Provider? Look to Space | WSJ (News+ link)

Google’s new Currents app is its enterprise replacement for Google+ | The Verge

(Google+)--
"Now that Google+ is history, today, Google unveiled what will be offered to G Suite users in its place: Currents. The new app “enables people to have meaningful discussions and interactions across your organization, helping keep everyone in the know and giving leaders the opportunity to connect with their employees.”

The company says Currents has a new look and feel compared to Google+ — it seems somewhat similar to my eyes — and it’s been streamlined to make it faster to post content and tag it. Posts from a company’s top executives can be given priority in the Currents stream to make sure employees see it."
Google’s new Currents app is its enterprise replacement for Google+ | The Verge

Atlassian gives Confluence a makeover, acquires Good Software | TechCrunch

For more details, see Confluence Cloud reimagined: 15+ new features (and counting!) | Atlassian blog
"Atlassian today announced a new version of Confluence, its collaboration platform. While the company has recently focused more on tools like Jira, Bitbucket and Trello, Confluence  has continued to gain traction as a content collaboration tool for technical and non-technical teams. Indeed, even though it’s been quiet around it, it’s the second-most revenue-generating product for Atlassian right now. With this release, Atlassian is once again putting the spotlight on Confluence.

To do this, Atlassian also today announced that it has acquired Good Software, a company that makes analytics tools for Confluence users and admins."
Atlassian gives Confluence a makeover, acquires Good Software | TechCrunch

It looks like Apple is about to break up iTunes | The Verge

On a related note, see Apple Podcasts now supports web playback, episode pages, more | 9to5Mac
"iTunes — the media management software that everyone loves to hate — may finally be approaching death’s door. Apple is reportedly set to break up the software into separate Music, TV, and Podcasts apps in the next version of macOS, according to both Guilherme Rambo at 9to5Mac and Steve Troughton-Smith.

The new apps are said to be Marzipan applications, similar to the Apple News app on the Mac, which will share an overarching design and codebase with their iOS counterparts on the iPhone and iPad. The Music app would presumably be focused on offering a home for the Apple Music service away from the baggage of iTunes. The TV app, of course, would be a place for Apple’s upcoming Apple TV Plus service to live, and the Podcasts app would get podcasts, of course. Books, which already has its own app on macOS, is also potentially getting a similar Marzipan redesign that would bring it more in line with the updated app that Apple released with iOS 12 last fall."
It looks like Apple is about to break up iTunes | The Verge

Tesla and Panasonic Freeze Expansion of Gigafactory, Nikkei Says | Bloomberg

Also see Tesla and Panasonic suspend investments in Gigafactory expansion, report says | Electrek
"Tesla Inc. and Panasonic Corp. are suspending plans to expand the capacity of their $4.5 billion U.S. plant in the face of uncertain demand for electric vehicles, the Nikkei reported Thursday.

The pair had intended to raise capacity 50 percent by 2020 to the equivalent of 54 gigawatt-hours, but financial problems forced a re-think, the Nikkei said without citing its sources. Panasonic also intends to suspend planned investment in Tesla’s battery and EV plant in Shanghai, and instead provide technical support and a small number of batteries from the existing Gigafactory, the newspaper reported.

Tesla shares fell as much as 4.7 percent to $263.20 in pre-market U.S. trading. Through Wednesday, the shares had declined 17 percent this year amid signs of softening U.S. demand for its Model 3. The Nikkei report emerged after Tokyo trading closed."
Tesla and Panasonic Freeze Expansion of Gigafactory, Nikkei Says | Bloomberg

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested by British police after being evicted from Ecuador’s embassy in London | Washington Post

Evidently Trump no longer loves Wikileaks
"In the last administration, Attorney General Eric Holder decided against pursuing prosecution of Assange out of concern that WikiLeaks’ argument that it is a journalistic organization would raise thorny First Amendment issues and set an unwelcome precedent.

The Trump administration, however, revisited the question of prosecuting members of WikiLeaks, and last November a court filing error revealed that Assange had been charged under seal.

Conspiracy, theft of government property or violating the Espionage Act are among the possible charges."
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested by British police after being evicted from Ecuador’s embassy in London | Washington Post

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Elon Musk and Bill Gates are trying to do something about global warming. David Wallace-Wells asks, where is everyone else? | Recode

Check the source for a podcast interview transcript
"“I see a new class of plutocrat who has more capital and more social capital than basically anybody has ever had in the history of the world,” he told Recode’s Kara Swisher. “They see themselves as world historical figures. They want to see themselves as gods. They’re chasing eternal life and whatever, like longevity, and yet ... they’re living on a world that is about to face some incredibly crippling, possibly existential threats from climate change. You’d think that the ego would drive you to want to solve the problem.”

There are a handful of exceptions. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has invested in carbon capture companies such as Carbon Engineering which, in theory, could “neutralize all of the carbon emissions produced by the entire global economy” for about $3 trillion a year. And Tesla CEO Elon Musk has forced the global automobile industry to push faster into electric vehicles than it would have otherwise and advanced the development of better solar panels and battery technology."
Elon Musk and Bill Gates are trying to do something about global warming. David Wallace-Wells asks, where is everyone else? | Recode

Fiat Chrysler will pay Tesla to dodge billions in emissions fines | The Verge

An interesting revenue source for Tesla...
"Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has struck a deal with Tesla to count the Silicon Valley automaker’s cars as part of its fleet in the European Union, lowering FCA’s average emissions output ahead of strict new EU regulations coming in 2021. Tesla will make “hundreds of millions of euros” from the sale of these emissions credits, according to the Financial Times.

The scheme resembles the way regulatory credits can be bought and sold in the United States, which has been a steady (if relatively small) business for Tesla for many years. The electric automaker made $103 million selling emissions credits in 2018, $280 million in 2017, and $215 million in 2016, according to a recent financial filing.

FCA, which owns brands like Jeep and Dodge, announced in mid-2018 that it plans to spend 9 billion euros (or just over $10 billion) by 2022 to add more electric and hybrid cars to its lineup. But analysts have said that is likely not enough to avoid billions of euros in fines for exceeding the EU’s target, which is 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer average across a carmaker’s whole fleet. In 2018, Fiat Chrysler’s average was estimated at 123 grams per kilometer."
Fiat Chrysler will pay Tesla to dodge billions in emissions fines | The Verge

Apple Has Hired Jaunt VR’s Founder Arthur van Hoff | Variety

Earlier in his career, from Wikipedia: "Van Hoff joined Sun Microsystems as an engineer with the Distributed Objects Everywhere team. In 1993, he joined the Java development team, writing the language's compiler and taking responsibility for its first release to Netscape in August 1995."
"Apple just made a significant hire in the virtual reality (VR) space: The iPhone maker has hired serial entrepreneur Arthur van Hoff, a founding executive of the Disney-backed VR startup Jaunt. Van Hoff started at Apple in a senior architect position this month, according to his Linkedin profile.

There’s no word on whether he will work on Apple’s still-unannounced augmented reality (AR) headset, or on other projects, but chances are he might be working with some of his old colleagues: Apple has hired a number of former Jaunt engineers over the past few years to work on AR, computer vision, camera systems and other projects. Van Hoff and Apple didn’t immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment."
Apple Has Hired Jaunt VR’s Founder Arthur van Hoff | Variety

Ford CEO Tamps Down Expectations for First Autonomous Vehicles | Bloomberg

Unlikely you will be able to say you've been driven by a Ford lately anytime soon...
"Too much hype has built up about how soon self-driving cars will hit the road, but they will ultimately change the world, Ford Motor Co.’s chief executive officer said.

“We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” Jim Hackett said Tuesday at a Detroit Economic Club event. While Ford’s first self-driving car is still coming in 2021, “its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex.”
[...]
“When we break through, it will change the way your toothpaste is delivered,” Hackett said at Ford Field, the football stadium of the Detroit Lions, owned by the family of Executive Chairman Bill Ford. “Logistics and ride structures and cities all get redesigned. I won’t be in charge of Ford when this is going on, but I see it clearly.”"
Ford CEO Tamps Down Expectations for First Autonomous Vehicles | Bloomberg

Apple’s $200 Billion Comeback: Services, Tariff Hope and Value | Bloomberg

Also see AAPL heads back towards trillion-dollar valuation as stock rallies over last two weeks | 9to5Mac
"Apple’s 26 percent rally this year leads all but Facebook Inc. among the largest U.S. technology companies. The gains added more than $200 billion to the market value of the Cupertino, California-based company.

The rebound will be put to the test when Apple reports fiscal second-quarter results on April 30. Analysts expect revenue to fall 6 percent, the worst year-over-year decline since 2016, according to the average estimate compiled by Bloomberg. Earnings per share is forecast to drop 13 percent."
 Apple’s $200 Billion Comeback: Services, Tariff Hope and Value | Bloomberg

Facebook Seeks to Stop Asking Users to Wish Dead Friends Happy Birthday | NYT

This article and the related Facebook post, Making It Easier to Honor a Loved One on Facebook After They Pass Away | Facebook Newsroom, provide a case study in the art of context-framing with titles
"On Tuesday, Facebook announced several changes aimed at easing users’ grief. The social media company is using artificial intelligence “to minimize experiences that might be painful,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said in a statement posted to the company’s website.

“We use AI to help keep it from showing up in places that might cause distress, like recommending that person be invited to events or sending a birthday reminder to their friends,” Ms. Sandberg said. “We’re working to get better and faster at this.”"
Facebook Seeks to Stop Asking Users to Wish Dead Friends Happy Birthday | NYT

Why Twitter paid CEO Jack Dorsey just $1.40 last year | Washington Post

Pay different
"Last year, according to a regulatory filing Monday, the social-media platform reported that it paid Dorsey $1.40 (yes, one dollar and forty cents), a nod to the company’s former 140-character limit. It’s an unusual twist on what’s been called the $1 salary club -- a wealthy, rarefied group of founder-CEOs with such massive equity stakes in their companies that base annual salaries are token and inconsequential.

While many companies have given their CEOs a $1 payday -- whether because they are wealthy founders or wanted to make a symbolic gesture during a crisis or tough times -- it’s unusual to see them “do something fun with it,” said John Roe, head of ISS Analytics. “I have not seen that before.” Twitter raised its number of characters from 140 to 280 in 2017."
Why Twitter paid CEO Jack Dorsey just $1.40 last year | Washington Post

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

The UK is attempting a radical redesign of the internet | The Verge

A rare non-Brexit UK headline; for more details, see U.K. unveils sweeping plan to penalize Facebook and Google for harmful online content | Washington Post
"An internet that has been stripped of terrorist content, child exploitation, and revenge porn would certainly be welcome. And yet given what we know about the difficulties of content moderation at scale, it’s difficult to understand how the regulations now in development will achieve their aims without significantly undermining political speech. One person’s “trolling,” after all, is another person’s good-faith discussion — and God help the regulator tasked with drawing a line between them.

What’s more, tough new moderation requirements may prove impossible for all but the largest platforms to meet, further entrenching their power and making it more difficult for startups to challenge them. If you believe that Commonwealth countries have been more willing to regulate tech platforms in part because they resent the fact that America owns vast swathes of the internet — and I do — it’s worth considering that a primary effect of these new rules could be to dramatically increase American companies’ power."
The UK is attempting a radical redesign of the internet | The Verge

Ikea and Sonos made the ultimate speaker lamp | The Verge

Maybe check the assembly instructions first...
"Sonos and Ikea have fully unveiled the pair of speakers that the two companies have collaborated on for years. The Symfonisk table lamp ($179) and bookshelf speaker ($99) will both ship this August, and you’ll be able to control them with Sonos’ app, allowing each speaker to be fully integrated as part of a multiroom audio setup.

“The products will deliver something that both companies are super proud of,” Sonos CEO Patrick Spence said in a recent interview with The Verge, which also included Ikea’s global business leader Björn Block. “We’ve given it our utter most and utter best from the IKEA side and Sonos has done exactly the same from their end,” said Block."
Ikea and Sonos made the ultimate speaker lamp | The Verge

China Considers Ban on Cryptocurrency Mining Because It's a Stupid Waste of Energy | Gizmodo

Tbd when doing anything with bitcoin in China will negatively impact one's social credit score...
"China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) published a new paper that includes a proposal to ban the mining of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin over concerns that crypto mining is a waste of valuable resources—a fact that’s hard to disagree with when you examine the horrific environmental impact. The proposal is available for public comment until May 7.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are mined using specialized computers that sap a tremendous amount of energy. That energy consumption now rivals the amount used by entire countries for normal operations and is doing significant damage to the planet. As the South China Morning Post points out, China’s coal-dependent regions like Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia have become popular destinations for crypto-miners looking for cheap electricity."
China Considers Ban on Cryptocurrency Mining Because It's a Stupid Waste of Energy | Gizmodo

How to Read Any Paywalled Article From The Wall Street Journal Using Apple News+ | MacRumors

Three easy steps -- as long as you start with iOS Safari (and a News+ subscription); macOS News share options are a bit broken at this point, as I noted in my Apple News: an infoslob perspective post
  1. "Find a paywalled article on The Wall Street Journal that you want to read using your Apple News+ subscription.
  2. Tap on the "Share" icon at the top of the browser. Make sure to tap the share icon native to Safari, and not the one in the article itself. 
  3. Choose the "Open in News" option."
Look for the share activities list, which scrolls horizontally; the rest of the list includes Open in News, Add to Home Screen, Print, Search Google, Request Desktop Site, Find on Page, and Create PDF:
How to Read Any Paywalled Article From The Wall Street Journal Using Apple News+ | MacRumors

Why Pinterest’s set IPO price may worry tech investors | Washington Post

Tbd if Lyft's IPO timing was a long-term plan to constrain Uber's financing options... On a brighter IPO note, see Video conferencing company Zoom could be valued at $8 billion in upcoming IPO | Business Insider
"“There is a stigma attached to coming to market with a down round, whether it’s in the private market or the public market, because it undermines confidence,” said Nicole Tanenbaum, chief investment strategist at Chequers Financial Management. “This has certainly changed the landscape and created some concern for the future tech IPOs to come.”

Lyft’s volatility since its March 29 debut has affected the psychology of investors, who see a company struggling to sustain its valuation, Tanenbaum said. A central criticism of many of the “unicorns” — privately held tech companies valued at $1 billion or more — is that their massive valuations do not yet translate into profit. “The biggest concern now is what does the investor appetite look like,” she said. “We are coming back down to earth a little bit from when Lyft IPO’d in March.”"
Why Pinterest’s set IPO price may worry tech investors | Washington Post

Monday, April 08, 2019

In China, an App About Xi Is Impossible to Ignore — Even if You Try | NYT

Later in the article: "The app, which was developed by the party’s Propaganda Department and the technology giant Alibaba, is available on the Apple app store as well as Android app stores in China. The Propaganda Department keeps user data."
"Propaganda is ubiquitous in China, but experts say Study the Great Nation is different because the government is forcing people to use it and punishing those who cheat or fall behind.

The app allows users to earn points for staying on top of news about Mr. Xi. Watching a video about his recent visit to France, for example, earns one point. Getting a perfect score on a quiz about his economic policies earns 10.

The app comes as Mr. Xi, who rose to power in 2012, is leading a broader crackdown on free speech in China, imprisoning scores of activists, lawyers and intellectuals, and imposing new restrictions on the news media. Mr. Xi has spoken frequently about what he calls the need to guard against online threats. He has warned that the party could lose its grip on power if it does not master digital media."
In China, an App About Xi Is Impossible to Ignore — Even if You Try | NYT

Poll: Americans give social media a clear thumbs-down | NBC News

Later in the article: 69% of Americans polled use social media once a day or more often
"The American public holds negative views of social-media giants like Facebook and Twitter, with sizable majorities saying these sites do more to divide the country than unite it and spread falsehoods rather than news, according to results from the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

What’s more, six in 10 Americans say they don’t trust Facebook at all to protect their personal information, the poll finds.

But the public also believes that technology in general has more benefits than drawbacks on the economy, and respondents are split about whether the federal government should break up the largest tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook."
Poll: Americans give social media a clear thumbs-down | NBC News

Blamed for Climate Change, Oil Companies Invest in Carbon Removal | NYT

Tangentially, see OxyContin Maker Explored Expansion Into “Attractive” Anti-Addiction Market | ProPublica
"Chevron, Occidental Petroleum and the Australian mining giant BHP this year have invested in Carbon Engineering, a small Canadian company that claims to be on the verge of a breakthrough in solving a critical climate change puzzle: removing carbon already in the atmosphere.

At its pilot project in Squamish, an old lumber town about 30 miles north of Vancouver, the company is using an enormous fan to suck large amounts of air into a scrubbing vessel designed to extract carbon dioxide. The gas can then be buried or converted into a clean-burning — though expensive — synthetic fuel.

Investing in Carbon Engineering and other carbon-reduction initiatives is part of an emerging effort by fossil-fuel industries to remain relevant and profitable in a warming world. With electric cars and solar and wind power becoming increasingly affordable, executives acknowledge that business as usual could put their companies at risk."
Blamed for Climate Change, Oil Companies Invest in Carbon Removal | NYT

For gamers, the clouds are rolling in | Boston Globe

In other gaming news, see Why the Cool Kids Are Playing Dungeons & Dragons | NYT
"Today, PlayStation Now is the biggest cloud gaming service, with over 750 titles on offer. The market research firm SuperData estimates it generated $143 million in revenue for Sony in 2018. That’s barely a rounding error for Sony, which took in $21 billion last year. Sony declines to provide a subscriber head count, but it’s safe to say PS Now hasn’t had much of an impact.

But if companies like Google and Microsoft are willing to gamble on game streaming, I expect quite a few consumers to play along, at least for awhile.

The newcomers must get the technology right. Both Google and Microsoft have dozens of cloud computing centers worldwide that should be capable of running high-end games with hardly any lag or on-screen flicker. In 2010 the pioneering OnLive system worked fairly well, at a time when home broadband connections averaged less than five megabits per second; today those average a respectable 95 megabits per second, more than good enough for gaming."
For gamers, the clouds are rolling in | Boston Globe

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Apple News: an infoslob perspective

I started a second blog: Adventures of a recovering infoslob. My goal for the blog is to share perspectives on everyday conceptual data models, starting with popular apps/services. The first model post provides a perspective on Apple News. I'll be publishing additional model-centric posts on Apple Podcasts, OneNote, OverDrive, and other topic domains, and will reference the future posts here when I do.

Apple News: an infoslob perspective | Infoslob

Friday, April 05, 2019

IBM artificial intelligence can predict with 95% accuracy which workers are about to quit their jobs | CNBC

The system might predict the odds you'll "quit" are a bit closer to 100%, if you're in your 50s or older and work for IBM (on a related note, see The IBM Age Discrimination Lawsuit Sheds Light On A Harrowing Employment Trend | Forbes)...
""The best time to get to an employee is before they go," she said.

IBM HR has a patent for its "predictive attrition program" which was developed with Watson to predict employee flight risk and prescribe actions for managers to engage employees. Rometty would not explain "the secret sauce" that allowed the AI to work so effectively in identifying workers about to jump (officially, IBM said the predictions are now in the 95 percent accuracy "range"). Rometty would only say that its success comes through analyzing many data points.

"It took time to convince company management it was accurate," Rometty said, but the AI has so far saved IBM nearly $300 million in retention costs, she claimed."
IBM artificial intelligence can predict with 95% accuracy which workers are about to quit their jobs | CNBC

Amazon’s Rise in Ad Searches Dents Google’s Dominance | WSJ

Later in the article: "Some brands remain leery of the company, viewing it as a competitor. Even as it helps other brands market their own products, Amazon is increasingly hawking its own private labels as well."
"Ad agency executives said Amazon’s strength is its ability to tell advertisers if their ads have led to purchases on its site.
“The shift from Google to Amazon search is simple; Amazon has the audience, the transaction, and the loyalty to Amazon Prime, which clients can capitalize on,” said Shane Atchison, chief executive officer of North American operations at WPP’s Wunderman Thompson.
Amazon’s advertising ambitions have steadily grown. Beyond search, it offers other opportunities for marketers including display ads, TV-like ads in live sports telecasts and targeted ads it serves to people as they travel around the web. Overall, it is now the third-largest digital ad player behind Google and Facebook Inc.—the “duopoly” that combined controls about 60% of U.S. online spending."
Amazon’s Rise in Ad Searches Dents Google’s Dominance | WSJ

Amazon to offer broadband access from orbit with 3,236-satellite ‘Project Kuiper’ constellation | GeekWire

Later in the article: "Privately held Blue Origin, which is separate from publicly traded Amazon, already holds contracts to send broadband satellites into low Earth orbit for OneWeb and Telesat."
"The filings lay out a plan to put 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit — including 784 satellites at an altitude of 367 miles (590 kilometers); 1,296 satellites at a height of 379 miles (610 kilometers); and 1,156 satellites in 391-mile (630-kilometer) orbits.

In response to GeekWire’s inquiries, Amazon confirmed that Kuiper Systems is actually one of its projects.

“Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision.”"
Amazon to offer broadband access from orbit with 3,236-satellite ‘Project Kuiper’ constellation | GeekWire

Amazon Is Making a Rival to Apple’s AirPods as Its First Alexa Wearable | Bloomberg

Tbd if they'll have magical batteries that last forever, unlike AirPods (e.g., see Apple AirPods Review: Perfect Earbuds, but They Don’t Last | NYT)
"Amazon.com Inc. is trying a new way to take its Alexa digital assistant mobile: wireless earbuds that mirror Apple Inc.’s popular AirPods.

The Seattle-based e-commerce giant is readying earbuds with built-in Alexa access for as early as the second half of this year, according to people with knowledge of the plans. The headphones will look and act similar to AirPods, but people working on the product inside Amazon are striving for better audio quality, the people said. Like the AirPods, the Amazon earbuds are designed to sit inside users’ ears without clips around the ear.

The product is one of the most important projects at Amazon’s Lab126 hardware division, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private work. The company has also been working on a home robot for consumers with Alexa, code-named Vesta, Bloomberg reported last year."
Amazon Is Making a Rival to Apple’s AirPods as Its First Alexa Wearable | Bloomberg

Apple has poached another of Google’s top AI researchers | The Verge

Also see One of Google's top A.I. people just joined Apple | CNBC
"Apple has poached another of Google’s top artificial intelligence researchers as part of the ongoing battle between tech companies to grab top AI talent.

Ian Goodfellow is one of the most prominent names in artificial intelligence, and previously worked at both Google and the Elon Musk-founded lab OpenAI. But, as first reported by CNBC, Goodfellow recently updated his LinkedIn profile to note that he is now working at Apple as a director for machine learning at the company’s Special Projects group.

It’s not the first time Apple has used Google as an AI talent incubator, with the iPhonemaker luring away Goodfellow’s former boss, Google’s head of AI, John Giannandrea, last April."
Apple has poached another of Google’s top AI researchers | The Verge

Exclusive: Google cancels AI ethics board in response to outcry | Vox

"... going back to the drawing board"
"This week, Vox and other outlets reported that Google’s newly created AI ethics board was falling apart amid controversy over several of the board members.

Well, it’s officially done falling apart — it’s been canceled. Google told Vox on Thursday that it’s pulling the plug on the ethics board.

The board survived for barely more than one week. Founded to guide “responsible development of AI” at Google, it would have had eight members and met four times over the course of 2019 to consider concerns about Google’s AI program. Those concerns include how AI can enable authoritarian states, how AI algorithms produce disparate outcomes, whether to work on military applications of AI, and more. But it ran into problems from the start."
Exclusive: Google cancels AI ethics board in response to outcry | Vox

Thursday, April 04, 2019

The Incredible Shrinking Apple | NYT

Some interesting speculation:
"More than restricting the present, Apple could deploy its billions to build a better digital future. In particular, I wonder why Apple isn’t working feverishly to create new privacy-minded versions of social-media services the world needs.

Take messaging, for starters. There is a strong moral case for Apple to turn iMessage, its encrypted messaging app, into an open standard available to anyone, even Android users, who currently lack many privacy-minded messaging apps that aren’t run by an ad company or aren’t friendly with the Chinese government.

There might be a business case, too. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, recently reoriented his company toward messaging. As Will Oremus noted in Slate, the move brings Facebook into direct competition with Apple. This presents an opportunity for Apple to turn a cold war into a hot one; Apple could swiftly undercut Mr. Zuckerberg’s ambition by freeing iMessage and bringing the gift of privacy to the non-Apple world.

Here are some other big ideas: Apple could embark on a long-term project to create a privacy-minded search engine to rival Google’s. It could build an ad-free Instagram (its founders just left Facebook in frustration). It could create a YouTube that isn’t a haven for neo-Nazis" 
The Incredible Shrinking Apple | NYT

Facebook is partnering with a big UK newspaper to publish sponsored articles downplaying 'technofears' and praising the company | Business Insider

In other Facebook PR full-employment news, see Millions of sensitive Facebook user records were left exposed on public web, security researchers say | Washington Post
"Facebook has found a novel solution to the never-ending deluge of negative headlines and news articles criticizing the company: Simply paying a British newspaper to run laudatory stories about it.

Facebook has partnered with The Daily Telegraph, a broadsheet British newspaper, to run a series of features about the company, Business Insider has found — including stories that defend it on hot-button issues it has been criticised over like terrorist content, online safety, cyberbullying, fake accounts, and hate speech."
Facebook is partnering with a big UK newspaper to publish sponsored articles downplaying 'technofears' and praising the company | Business Insider

Google’s brand-new AI ethics board is already falling apart | Vox

Later in the article: "Overall, it’s not clear whether the panel will be used for guidance on internal Google matters at all. What it definitely will be used for is PR."
"Of the eight people listed in Google’s initial announcement, one (privacy researcher Alessandro Acquisti) has announced on Twitter that he won’t serve, and two others are the subject of petitions calling for their removal — Kay Coles James, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, and Dyan Gibbens, CEO of drone company Trumbull Unmanned. Thousands of Google employees have signed onto the petition calling for James’s removal.

James and Gibbens are two of the three women on the board. The third, Joanna Bryson, was asked if she was comfortable serving on a board with James, and answered, “Believe it or not, I know worse about one of the other people.”

Altogether, it’s not the most promising start for the board."
Google’s brand-new AI ethics board is already falling apart | Vox

Lyft Is Luring Investors, Just Not the Kind It Wants | NYT

Going for a short ride with Lyft
"Lyft, just days into its existence as a publicly traded company, is drawing unwanted interest from Wall Street’s pessimists.

Traders who bet that the stock will decline are piling into the ride-sharing company. These so-called short-sellers borrow and sell the shares, hoping to buy them back at a lower price sometime in the future.

One way to gauge their interest in a stock is to look at the number of shares that are being lent, and as of Tuesday, 6.6 million shares, or $455 million worth of Lyft, were on loan, according to the data provider IHS Markit. That was equal to 20 percent of the shares actually available for trading, known as the float."
Lyft Is Luring Investors, Just Not the Kind It Wants | NYT

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Andreessen Horowitz Is Blowing Up The Venture Capital Model (Again) | Forbes

Invest different
"And so Andreessen and Horowitz, who rank 55th and 73rd, respectively, on this year’s Forbes Midas List, intend to be disagreeable themselves. They just finished raising a soon-to-be announced $2 billion fund (bringing total assets under management to nearly $10 billion) to write even bigger checks for portfolio companies and unicorns the firm missed the first time. More aggressively, they tell Forbes that they are registering their entire firm—a costly move requiring reviews of all 150 people—as a financial advisor, renouncing Andreessen Horowitz’s status as a venture capital firm entirely.

Why? Well, venture capitalists have long traded a lack of Wall Street-style oversight for the promise that they invest mainly in new shares of private companies. It was a tradeoff firms gladly made—until the age of crypto, a type of high-risk investment the SEC says requires more oversight. So be it, says Andreessen Horowitz. By renouncing its venture capital status, it’ll be able to go deeper on riskier bets: If the firm wants to put $1 billion into cryptocurrency or tokens, or buy unlimited shares in public companies or from other investors, it can. And in doing so, the thinking goes, it’ll again make other firms feel like they have one hand tied behind their back.

“What else are feathers for? They just like to get ruffled,” Andreessen says with a smirk. “The thing that stands out is the thing that’s different.”"
Andreessen Horowitz Is Blowing Up The Venture Capital Model (Again) | Forbes

YouTube reportedly discouraged employees from reporting fake, toxic videos | The Verge

Maybe this digital advertising business model thing just isn't going to work out... For the bigger picture, see How The Big Five Tech Companies Make Their Money, Visualized | Visual Capitalist
"For years, YouTube ignored its employees’ pleas to address and take down toxic videos in a quest to boost engagement, reports Bloomberg. According to more than 20 former and current YouTube staffers, employees would offer proposals to curb the spread of videos that contained disturbing, extremist content, and / or conspiracy theories, but leadership was reportedly more interested in boosting engagement than heeding those warnings.

One proposal offered a way to keep content that was “close to the line” of violating policies on the platform but remove it from the recommended tab. YouTube rejected that suggestion in 2016, a former engineer said, and instead continued to recommend videos regardless of how controversial they were. According to employees, the internal goal was to reach 1 billion hours of views a day."
YouTube reportedly discouraged employees from reporting fake, toxic videos | The Verge

Robo-callers rang Americans’ phones 26 billion times last year. Now, Congress is taking aim. | Washington Post

On a related note, see FCC “fined” robocallers $208 million since 2015 but collected only $6,790 | Ars Technica
"The newly revived effort in the Senate takes aim at those who disguise their attempts to steal Americans’ personal information — often by using phone numbers that appear similar to those they’re trying to target. These fraudulent, illegal calls comprised roughly a quarter of the 26 billion robo-calls placed to U.S. mobile numbers last year, according to one industry estimate.

Under bipartisan legislation, called the TRACED Act, the U.S. government would gain more power to slap these lawbreakers with bigger fines, while prodding AT&T, Verizon and other carriers to improve their technology so that consumers can more easily figure out if calls are real or spam. The first test for the bill arrives Wednesday, when it is scheduled to come before the tech-and-telecom focused Senate Commerce Committee for an early vote that it’s expected to pass."
Robo-callers rang Americans’ phones 26 billion times last year. Now, Congress is taking aim. | Washington Post

This teenager started playing video games 18 hours a day. Now he makes more money than most adults. | Washington Post

For some background context, see How Fortnite Captured Teens’ Hearts and Minds | New Yorker (from May 2018; no subscription -- The New Yorker or News+ -- required, although it counts against your monthly free-article quota, if you don't have a subscription...)
"Griffin Spikoski spends as much as 18 hours a day glued to his computer screen playing the wildly popular, multi-player video game Fortnite.

His YouTube channel — where he regularly uploads videos of himself playing the online game — has nearly 1.2 million subscribers and more than 71 million views; figures that have netted him advertisers, sponsorships and a steady stream of income.

Last year, that income totaled nearly $200,000.

The healthy sum — more than enough to comfortably raise a family in most American cities — is all the more impressive considering Spikoski is 14 years old."
This teenager started playing video games 18 hours a day. Now he makes more money than most adults. | Washington Post

Media Companies Take a Big Gamble on Apple | NYT

So perhaps sort of like access to Abbey Road at a bargain price but without Come Together and Something?... Check here for a consolidated view of the tweetstorm referenced below.
"In addition to allowing their publications to be part of Apple’s big bundle, publishers have risked cannibalizing their own subscription efforts by signing on. At $9.99 a month, Apple News Plus is a bargain, especially for casual readers. The Journal, by contrast, charges a monthly fee of $39 for digital access. Online subscriptions to The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Wired — all owned by Condé Nast — together cost more than $10 a month. The New Yorker by itself costs $7.50.
The day after the splashy announcement, The New Yorker found itself on the defensive after a Reuters headline blared: “Is it time to dump your New Yorker subscription?” In reply, Michael Luo, the editor of The New Yorker’s website, sounded off in a 13-part tweetstorm advising readers not to dump the magazine. Only a portion of its archive would be available on the Apple service, he wrote, and readers could miss out on certain articles by Ronan Farrow, Jane Mayer and Doreen St. Félix, not to mention the weekly crossword.
“The best way to read ALL that we do @newyorker every day and every week is to subscribe,” Mr. Luo tweeted."
Media Companies Take a Big Gamble on Apple | NYT

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook may pay publishers to put their stuff in a dedicated news section | Recode

For a current case study of "news" in Facebook, see In India Election, False Posts and Hate Speech Flummox Facebook | NYT; on a related note, see Singapore Isn’t Waiting for Facebook to Crack Down on Fake News | Bloomberg
"Expect publishers to be wary of Facebook’s newest proposal, since it comes after multiple strategy changes: Facebook has alternately told publishers to give it their best stuff and let Facebook host that content directly on its site, and told them Facebook would be de-emphasizing the role of news content.

On the other hand, Facebook and Google are swallowing up an ever-increasing share of online advertising — which may make publishers receptive to any kind of proposal that generates more revenue for them.

And Zuckerberg’s proposal comes shortly after the launch of a new Apple news product, which charges users $10 a month for a “Netflix for magazines” offer."
Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook may pay publishers to put their stuff in a dedicated news section | Recode

There Are Five Different Races in Streaming TV. Here’s Where Apple Fits In. | WSJ

Apparently not yet completely "cracked"
"It is among the many companies that are playing in multiple categories. Its Apple TV+ service, announced last week, aims to create original programming, such as “The Morning Show,” a drama about a talk show featuring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, and the space drama “For All Mankind.”

It also has a separate Apple TV Channels service, which is more of a streaming hub, letting users sign up for HBO, Showtime and Starz, among other on-demand video options. All of this is quite different—and less ambitious—than Apple’s initial hopes of building a replacement to cable TV that would allow ad-free viewing.

In some ways, Apple is emulating Amazon.com Inc., which competes with Netflix in original streaming entertainment but also runs Amazon Prime Video Channels, not unlike Apple TV Channels. Google’s YouTube is also a player in multiple categories."
There Are Five Different Races in Streaming TV. Here’s Where Apple Fits In. | WSJ

One week with Apple News Plus: a messy but good-enough Netflix for magazines | The Verge

Final paragraphs below; on a related note, see Power pendulum swings back to news companies | Axios
"Putting aside those broader economic compromises, I think it’s safe to say that for those who enjoy magazines, News Plus is a solid deal. If you’re content with just perusing individual issues as they get released, you’ll get your money’s worth if you read upwards of three or more publications per month. Since Apple is offering a free trial for the first month, it’s relatively easy to discover for yourself if this is a service you’ll really want to use in the long run.

But as the first bit of evidence of Apple’s renewed approach to software services, News Plus feels messy and inconsistent enough to cause some real concern about how the company’s similar TV and games offerings will shake out later this year. For the publications that aren’t currently participating in News Plus, I can’t see the initial state of this service convincing them to agree to Apple’s reportedly abysmal terms."
One week with Apple News Plus: a messy but good-enough Netflix for magazines | The Verge

Amid Bitcoin Uncertainty, ‘the Smart Money Knows That Crypto Is Not Ready’ | NYT

From a timely bitcoin reality check; also see Bitcoin's Sudden Surge Propels It Above $5,000 | Bloomberg (which notes "Traders struggle to pinpoint reasons for the advance")
"Even in this “crypto winter,” as some are calling it, the depressed price of Bitcoin is still four times higher than it was at a peak in 2013, before an earlier crash.

But few of the more practical ambitions for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been realized, and it can still be hard to determine what is real and what is not real around digital tokens.

An American company looking to set up Bitcoin investment funds, Bitwise Asset Management, recently said it had determined that 95 percent of the trading activity reported by Bitcoin exchanges around the world was fake.

The structure of Bitcoin makes it hard to maintain control. All Bitcoins are accounted for on a decentralized ledger, known as the blockchain, which no single institution controls. Anyone can have access to it, giving free rein to bad actors."
Amid Bitcoin Uncertainty, ‘the Smart Money Knows That Crypto Is Not Ready’ | NYT

Lyft plunges below IPO price, sending cautionary message to other unicorns | Washington Post

Investors taken for a ride?...
"The ride-hailing company‘s stock shot up by nearly 25 percent after it hit the open market on Friday. It then settled at $78.29, or 9 percent above its $72 initial public offering price.

Monday was a different story. Lyft shares tumbled, closing at $69.01, down 12 percent on the day. The stock has pulled back 4 percent from its IPO price and is off 22 percent from its Friday high of $88.68.

Lyft’s two-day performance offers a sobering lesson on the risks of jumping in on the opening trading day of a hot company."
Lyft plunges below IPO price, sending cautionary message to other unicorns | Washington Post

Monday, April 01, 2019

“Are We at a Party, or a Wake?”: Journalists Wonder If Apple News+ Is a Trojan Horse | Vanity Fair

From another News+ reality check; coincidentally, see Zuckerberg lays out his vision for a 'high-quality' news tab in Facebook, but he hasn't started working on it yet | CNBC
"That more or less sums up the schizophrenic reactions to the launch of Apple News+, which is the latest—and arguably the most consequential—entrant in a series of newfangled platform-publisher experiments ranging from Facebook Instant Articles, to Snapchat Discover, to Google Amp. On the one hand, publications throughout the industry have either moved, or are moving, toward revenue models in which people pay them directly for what they’re reading online. Apple's new venture can give publications like these the opportunity to reach millions of Apple consumers who might not already be subscribing to their content, as long as these publications are willing to give Apple a reported 50 percent of the total News+ subscription pie. (The other half is being split amongst the publishers based on engagement levels.) This proposition may sound especially promising to publications that don’t already have large, loyal audiences paying to read them on the Web each month. As one media executive put it to me, “If you have a subscription business or a membership business, and you’ve got, like, 9,000 digital subscribers, you don’t have much to lose going in with Apple.”"
“Are We at a Party, or a Wake?”: Journalists Wonder If Apple News+ Is a Trojan Horse | Vanity Fair

Apple News+ could lead to a massive value destruction for the magazine industry | Monday Note

A perhaps precarious publisher proposition
"Then, the pro-rata kiss of death sets in. If Apple chooses to distribute the revenue based on reading time, an expensive publication such as the New Yorker ($100 a year) will lose 88 percent of its revenue, even if the reader of this hypothetical bundle allocates 20 percent of their time on it. By comparison, Wired, which can afford to be ultra cheap because it carries a much heavier advertising load, will lose only 12 percent of its revenue assuming a reader spends 15 percent of their time on it. The pricier the rate card, the higher the loss.
Regardless of the distribution, it is a miserable zero-sum game — or rather a $59 a year lousy game — for the publishers.
One justification to join Apple News+ is the often-heard rationale “It is just another channel, publishers should take advantage of it”. It could make sense if the publisher were able to retain the relationship with the customer. For obvious reasons, that won’t be the case in the Apple News+ ecosystem. Apple will own the relationship. Publishers who will lose three-quarters of their revenue by joining Apple News+, won’t be able to develop or upsell anything directly to their customers, based on their profile, propensity to pay, etc. As for “the other channel,” it is a blind one for news brands that won’t even be able to get incremental revenue for their current business."
Apple News+ could lead to a massive value destruction for the magazine industry | Monday Note

Apple News+ Is Great for Magazine Lovers, But It’s Not the Future of News | WSJ

Some guidance from Apple News+ launch partner the WSJ... In other News news, see Apple leaves Android users with few alternatives as Texture is earmarked for May 28 shutdown | PCWorld
"I do enjoy the experience of leafing through a magazine. It feels finite and packaged, where the open web can feel chaotic. If that’s worth $10 a month to you, go for it. But the trends go the other way. We get our news from many sources, more than once a week or month. We also get news from podcasts and video, which don’t yet exist in the world of Apple News+.
If you’re looking for more news sources, a number of other great apps aggregate news and stories worth reading. Here are a few of my favorites:
• Flipboard: This is my go-to news app on iPhone, iPad and the web. You can subscribe to individual “magazines” curated by Flipboard’s staff or users. Or just tell Flipboard you’re super into rock climbing and old cheeses, and it’ll serve up all the best stuff to read.
• Nuzzel: If you log in with your Twitter and/or Facebook accounts, Nuzzel combs your social media feeds and grabs the articles people are sharing, ranked by popularity. It’s a great way to stay up to the minute on stories.
• SmartNews: This app grabs stories from the web, categorizing them by section—Entertainment, Sports, Politics—and offers a personalized, constantly updating set of reading material.
• Google News and Microsoft News: The web giants offer similar products to Apple News—a constantly changing, human- and algorithm-driven set of news stories that attempts to offer sources from all sides of an issue."
Apple News+ Is Great for Magazine Lovers, But It’s Not the Future of News | WSJ
(Apple News+ link)

Artificial intelligence group DeepMind readies first commercial product | FT

If you're not one of the FT's million paying customers and want to read the full article, try searching for the article title
"DeepMind claims its product will not just offer diagnoses, but also be able to explain exactly how it arrived at its conclusion and how certain it is of the result, which is crucial for healthcare professionals.

“For an ophthalmologist, this is jaw-dropping. What you can see is [the AI] has segmented every single point, about 65m data points in this scan [creating] super high-resolution images,” said Pearse Keane, a consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields. “We have to bring the same levels of rigour [to] how we validate the algorithms that we would with any medical device, but my personal prejudice is that ophthalmology will be the first speciality of medicine that is fundamentally transformed by AI.”"
Artificial intelligence group DeepMind readies first commercial product | FT