Tuesday, April 30, 2019

How Fox News dominates Facebook in the Trump era | Vice News

Brad Parscale may be tempted to take a vacation for the rest of 2019, as Facebook, Fox News, and Twitter do his job for him...
"Over the past three years, CrowdTangle estimates that Fox News’ main Facebook page, with 17 million followers, has racked up 80 percent more reactions, comments, and shares than CNN, which has 31 million followers. The Fox page’s engagement rate — the average number of engagements per post per follower — was higher than any major news organization over the same period, and some five times that of The New York Times.

As Facebook continues to grapple with the spread of misinformation and divisive content, causing critics to worry that it could pose threats to democracy, the lead that Fox News has built over less partisan news organizations on the platform strikes some as painfully ironic."
How Fox News dominates Facebook in the Trump era | Vice News

Apple’s $300 Billion Rebound Faces Reality Check With Earnings | Bloomberg

A big day ahead for Apple
"Apple Inc. has a lot to live up to with its earnings report coming on the heels of a rally that has added almost $300 billion of market value this year.

The shares are up 44 percent from a 21-month low touched in early January after worse-than-expected iPhone sales prompted the company to cut its fiscal first-quarter revenue forecast.

The rebound was partly driven by Apple’s new digital services. But Wall Street has grown increasingly skeptical of the gains. With only 22 of 46 analysts assigning buy ratings, the stock has the smallest percentage of bullish recommendations in at least two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg."

Apple’s $300 Billion Rebound Faces Reality Check With Earnings | Bloomberg

How One Computer System Tangled Up Several Airlines | NYT

Some ancient history from New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future: "Once it became obvious that SAGE was worse than useless at preventing a nuclear war, it shape-shifted, following an in-flight meeting between the president of American Airlines and an IBM salesman, into the Semi-Automated Business Research Environment (SABRE) – a multinational corporation for managing airline reservations. All the pieces were in place: the phone lines, the weather radar, the increasingly privatised processing power, and the ability to manage real-time data flows in an era of mass tourism and mass consumer spending. A machine designed to prevent commercial airlines from being accidentally shot down – a necessary component of any air defence system – pivoted to managing those same flights, buoyed by billions of dollars of defence spending. Today, SABRE connects more than 57,000 travel agents and millions of travellers with more than 400 airlines, 90,000 hotels, 30 car rental companies, 200 tour operators, and dozens of railways, ferries and cruise lines. A kernel of computational Cold War paranoia sits at the heart of billions of journeys made every year."
"The Sabre system was created in the 1960s as part of a partnership between I.B.M. and American Airlines, which named it the Semi-Automated Business Research Environment. It was spun off from American as a separate company in 2000. Sabre Corporation is now a travel technology company based in Southlake, Tex., that provides reservation systems to airlines worldwide.

The system can be used to manage the reservations, crew schedules, frequent-flier programs and other key parts of an airline’s operation.

“With very few exceptions, almost everything else interfaces from the reservation system,” Mr. Engel said."
How One Computer System Tangled Up Several Airlines | NYT

‘996’ Is China’s Version of Hustle Culture. Tech Workers Are Sick of It. | NYT

996 => working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 6 days a week
"Not so long ago, 996 symbolized possibility for Chinese tech entrepreneurs. Their country had the vast market. And increasingly, it had the engineering talent. The secret ingredient, the one that supposedly set China’s companies apart from Silicon Valley’s, was the hustle.

While China requires overtime pay, the laws are haphazardly enforced, and the tech industry usually insists workers are committing their time voluntarily.

But hustle is harder to demand of workers in a bear market. Internet darlings have laid off employees. A torrent of venture investment in tech has slowed to a trickle. As China’s internet industry matures, giant companies like Alibaba and Tencent are looking more like monopolists whose world-swallowing dominance leaves little room for upstarts."
‘996’ Is China’s Version of Hustle Culture. Tech Workers Are Sick of It. | NYT

Tesla Looks to Regain Its Luster in Solar Energy by Slashing Prices | NYT

Tesla test two of the “It’s 2019; people want to buy things online" hypothesis (source)
"Tesla, which lost its status as the nation’s leading rooftop solar company last year, says it has figured out how to get back in the game — by slashing prices.

The company plans to announce on Tuesday that it has started selling solar panels and related equipment for up to 38 percent less than the national average price by standardizing systems and requiring customers to order them online. Tesla executives said these changes should put to rest concerns that the company, better known for its luxury electric cars, has neglected its residential solar business.

But it is not clear whether the strategy will work or is even feasible. Tesla and its chief executive, Elon Musk, have struggled to deliver products on time that they announced with great fanfare, including a $35,000 version of its Model 3 electric sedan. The company has also struggled with quality problems."
Tesla Looks to Regain Its Luster in Solar Energy by Slashing Prices | NYT

Technology Google parent Alphabet’s stock tumbles on slow advertising growth | Washington Post

Still searching for big businesses beyond advertising; also see Alphabet Falls $1 Billion Short of Revenue Forecasts, Blaming Strong Dollar | NYT and Google Continues Slump After Ad Revenue Growth Slows | Bloomberg, which notes "Revenue from Google advertising rose 15 percent, the slowest pace since 2015. That was a stark contrast to scandal-plagued Facebook Inc., which last week reported a 26 percent jump in ad sales."
"Google has grown in the public’s imagination through products such as its Waymo self-driving vehicles, package-delivering drones, Pixel smartphones and Chrome Web browser. But at day’s end, the business runs on advertising.

That’s why investors punished the Silicon Valley giant for showing cracks in its ad sales for this year’s first quarter. Shares of Google’s parent, Alphabet, tumbled by more than 7 percent in after-hours trading Monday after the firm said growth in advertising sales slowed to 15 percent from a year earlier, compared with 20 percent in the prior quarter and 24 percent a year ago."
 Technology Google parent Alphabet’s stock tumbles on slow advertising growth | Washington Post

Monday, April 29, 2019

Facebook almost missed the mobile revolution. It can’t afford to miss the next big thing. | Vox

A Facebook profile on the eve of F8 2019
"Most of this technology is still unavailable to consumers, and the stuff that is available — Oculus and Portal — you likely use sparingly if at all. It’s clear that nailing private messaging is Facebook’s current challenge, but if the company is still relevant a decade from now, messaging will probably just be one of multiple pivots the company has to make. It’s possible the physical technology people use Facebook on will change, too. You might connect with friends through a VR headset or through AR glasses. Maybe voice commands will be the dominant way people interact online, through devices like in-home speakers. If so, Facebook will need to adjust accordingly.

It’s anybody’s guess which technology platform will dominate, but Facebook and Zuckerberg are trying to avoid another mad scramble.

“The one advantage Facebook has, and it’s the same advantage Google had, is they just have a really profitable business, tons of cash, so they can really experiment in a way that very few other companies can,” says Mark Mahaney, a Wall Street analyst covering the tech industry for the investment bank RBC Capital Markets. “They can throw a lot more stuff up against the wall. They can easily afford to do that. God, that’s a good position [to be in].”"
Facebook almost missed the mobile revolution. It can’t afford to miss the next big thing. | Vox

Jack Dorsey’s TED Interview and the End of an Era | New Yorker

From a timely Twitter reality check
"It all seemed so inevitable: that Jack Dorsey, the C.E.O. and co-founder of Twitter, would appear onstage at last week’s ted ideas conference, in Vancouver; that the conference theme would be “Bigger Than Us,” an ambiguous invocation of either inspiration or fear; that Dorsey, during a session called “Power,” would calmly acknowledge the proliferation of co√∂rdinated harassment campaigns, conspiracy theories, and politically motivated misinformation on his company’s platform; that he would speak at length and say nothing new. Dorsey has been on a months-long, semi-apologetic publicity tour. He has met with tech journalists, to promote his company’s shift in focus from growth to “conversation health” (an initiative that has yet to result in concrete changes), and with conservative commentators, to discuss anti-conservative platform bias (the existence of which has not been proved). Throughout, he has taught a sustained master class in conversational redirection and opacity. Dressed in what has recently become a signature monochrome—wrinkled black hoodie, tight black beanie, black Rick Owens “sock sneakers”—Dorsey looked wraithlike against the colorful set at ted, an Edward Gorey character who had lost his way. His beard was long, bushy, eremitic. A small metallic hoop glinted from his left nostril."
Jack Dorsey’s TED Interview and the End of an Era | New Yorker

Which Tech Company Is Uber Most Like? Its Answer May Surprise You | NYT

Unlike Uber, Amazon has an optionally profitable business...
"On the surface, the two companies have little in common. Amazon sells books, toilet paper, toys — pretty much everything, really — and it provides cloud computing services and makes artificially intelligent speakers. In contrast, Uber lets people hail rides through a mobile app.

But just as Amazon began as a modest online bookseller before growing into a digital retailing behemoth, Uber wants people to believe its ride-sharing business is the foundation for a larger “platform” spanning multiple transportation industries. Like Amazon, Uber is no stranger to taking on competitors across many areas to accelerate its growth. And also like Amazon, Uber is willing to lose geysers of cash to achieve its aims."
Which Tech Company Is Uber Most Like? Its Answer May Surprise You | NYT

Friday, April 26, 2019

AC3: Apple's insatiable appetite for office space devours Wolfe Campus, hungry for more | AppleInsider

Final paragraphs from an Apple expansion overview
"Apple currently employs 90,000 people across all 50 of the United States, including 6,000 who were added over the last year. Those new hires are part of a five-year plan to add 20,000 jobs in America and contribute $350 billion to the economy.

Apple also announced plans to invest $10 billion in its iCloud data centers across the U.S. over the next five years. Apple's existing data centers (that mostly house racks of servers, maintained by relatively few actual workers) are located in Maiden, North Carolina; Reno, Nevada; Prineville, Oregon; and Newark, California. The company plans to situate a new facility in Waukee, Iowa.

Apple also operates a green, $2 billion global command iCloud operations site for its data centers in Mesa, Arizona, on the site of its scuttled effort to fabricate sapphire panels with GT Advanced Technologies."
AC3: Apple's insatiable appetite for office space devours Wolfe Campus, hungry for more | AppleInsider

A Letter from Our Founders | Goodreads blog

Reading between the lines, Amazon's Goodreads (acquired in 2013) assimilation is apparently complete
"We have been so blessed to have had the opportunity to see Goodreads grow from an idea we started in our living room in 2006 to a flourishing community of over 90 million readers worldwide and an amazing team of employees. We dedicated the last 13 years of our lives to this mission of helping people find and share books they love, and we can’t think of a better way to have spent that time.

We’re planning on stepping back from Goodreads as its CEO and Editor-in-Chief at the end of May, and will become advisors to the company. Veronica Moss, who has successfully led our Revenue & Operations here for the past four years, is stepping into the role of Goodreads CEO. She's one of the strongest leaders we have had the pleasure of working with and shares our vision for Goodreads. We have full confidence in Veronica and the future potential of Goodreads and we look forward to cheering on the team as advisors. The Goodreads mission and commitment to being a place for all readers and a place for open discourse will continue to flourish."
A Letter from Our Founders | Goodreads blog

Eric Schmidt Has Lessons to Pass Along | WSJ

From a quasi-review of Trillion Dollar Coach; also see Google execs reveal secrets to success they got from Silicon Valley’s ‘trillion dollar’ business coach | CNBC
"Yet even with his standing in the industry assured and an estimated $14 billion net worth, according to Forbes, Mr. Schmidt is hardly unshackled. He won’t touch on Google (“I better not talk about current events”), the latest generation of technology leaders (“I’d rather not criticize them as a group”) or what it’s like to have his personal life splashed across the tabloids (“Let me not go there”). When asked about Apple founder Steve Jobs, with whom Mr. Schmidt had a public falling-out over Google’s development of rival mobile software, Mr. Schmidt diplomatically observes, “When Steve was upset, he was loud.” He hastens to add: “Steve was a good friend, and I miss him terribly.”
Mr. Schmidt’s arrival on the self-help circuit comes amid a tide of leadership missives from wealthy entrepreneurs. The hedge-fund billionaire Ray Dalio has spent more than a year evangelizing his book of “Principles,” which tells employees to argue with one another and rank each others’ performance in real time. Mr. Schmidt, who says he knows Mr. Dalio well, calls that approach “sort of the extreme.” He prefers to deliver hard feedback behind closed doors. He says that he steered clear of Wall Street early in his career because “it wasn’t forgiving…it wasn’t tolerant.”"
Eric Schmidt Has Lessons to Pass Along | WSJ (Apple News+ link)

Amazon Web Services revenue grew 41% in the first quarter | CNBC

Tangentially, see Apple actually reducing dependence on Amazon cloud services | Cult of Mac, which notes "While Apple spent $370 million on Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2018, that’s down from $775 million in the previous year, a year-over-year decrease of 52%, according to The Information."
"Amazon Web Services reported revenue growth of 41% on Thursday, as the cloud-computing division continues to provide substantial profit for its parent company.

Sales at AWS rose to $7.7 billion from $5.44 billion a year earlier, beating the $7.69 billion average analyst estimate, according to FactSet. AWS revenue represented 13% of total sales at Amazon, up from 10% in the fourth quarter.

AWS remains the dominant provider of cloud servers and storage to businesses looking to offload their data center infrastructure, but Microsoft Azure is rapidly becoming a stronger competitor and is winning notable deals, particularly in retail. Microsoft said on Wednesday that Azure revenue surged 73% in the latest quarter, helping the company top analyst estimates for profit and sales."
Amazon Web Services revenue grew 41% in the first quarter | CNBC

Facebook’s Little Fine | NYT

Also see Regulators Around the World are Circling Facebook | NYT
"With $23 billion in cash on hand, Facebook will see a $5 billion fine as simply the cost of doing business. Needless to say, this is not how fines are supposed to work. Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at N.Y.U. and my co-host on the podcast Pivot, calls it the “algebra of deterrence,” by which he means a price and a punishment that makes certain you will not do a bad thing again.

Five billion dollars is not that price. “Put another zero on it and then we can start talking,” said Mr. Galloway this week."
Facebook’s Little Fine | NYT

Tech Policy Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey called Rep. Ilhan Omar after Trump’s tweet sparked a flood of death threats | Washington Post

Twitter "company rule" #1: Trump tweets = traffic and no other "rules" matter; on a related note, see Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too. | Mother Jones
"Omar pressed Dorsey to explain why Twitter didn’t remove Trump’s tweet outright, according to a person familiar with the conversation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the call was private. Dorsey said that the president’s tweet didn’t violate the company’s rules, a second person from Twitter confirmed.

Dorsey also pointed to the fact that the tweet and video already had been viewed and shared far beyond the site, one of the sources said. But the Twitter executive did tell Omar that the tech giant needed to do a better job generally in removing hate and harassment from the site, according to the two people familiar with the call."
 Tech Policy Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey called Rep. Ilhan Omar after Trump’s tweet sparked a flood of death threats | Washington Post

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Microsoft hits $1 trillion market cap after earnings beat estimates | CNBC

Amazon announces its latest quarterly earnings today; also see Microsoft 3Q19 revenue up 14% on the back of strong cloud and, uh, Windows? | Ars Technica and this Benedict Evans tweet thread that starts with "Google is the new Microsoft and Microsoft is the new IBM."
"Microsoft shares are trading near a record after rallying 34% over the past year. The stock climbed past $130.50 in extended trading, pushing the market cap over $1 trillion.

Sales jumped 14% in the latest quarter, driven by the company’s transition to the public cloud as more large businesses offload their servers and data storage to Azure infrastructure. Gross margin, or the percentage of revenue left after accounting for the costs of goods sold, was 66.7% up from 65.4% a year earlier. Net income rose 19% to $8.8 billion.

Azure’s revenue surged 73%. Microsoft’s commercial cloud business, which includes Azure, grew 41% in the quarter to $9.6 billion. While Azure is still much smaller than rival Amazon Web Service, Stifel analysts say it’s growing faster than AWS was at a similar size."
Microsoft hits $1 trillion market cap after earnings beat estimates | CNBC

Why a multibillion-dollar FTC fine would barely faze Facebook | The Verge

Also see Facebook jumps as Stories users and ads show promising growth | CNBC
"On an earnings call, the company said the $3 billion figure was at the low end of its expectations for a fine. Ashkan Soltani, who used to work at the FTC, suggested that Facebook might have taken the unusual step of pre-announcing a fine as a negotiating tactic — anchoring the price at a level that the company finds acceptable, while discouraging regulators from asking for any more.

In The Information, Ashley Gold compares a potential $3 billion fine to some of the other big speeding tickets issued against tech companies. It would be exponentially bigger than the biggest fine issued by the FTC to date — $22.5 million, against Google in 2012. But it would be smaller than European actions against Big Tech. The EU issued a $15.3 billion fine against Apple in 2016, for tax evasion; and a $5 billion fine against Google last year, for antitrust issues. And it would pale next to fines levied against banks — such as the $16.7 billion fine the Justice Department issued against Bank of America in 2014 for defrauding consumers during the financial crisis."
Why a multibillion-dollar FTC fine would barely faze Facebook | The Verge

Tesla lost $700 million in the first quarter with Model 3 problems | Washington Post

Later in the article: "[Musk] said “at this point I do think there is some merit to raising capital," after dismissing the idea last year."
"The $702 million loss was higher than analysts forecast for the company, slightly less than the figure reported in the same quarter one year ago and a stark departure from two straight quarters of profits. Its $3.7 billion in automotive revenue was $1 billion more than the year-ago figure, on the heels of the release of Tesla’s Model 3, but down 41 percent from what Tesla reported in the fourth quarter. Overall revenue, which includes energy products, was $4.5 billion.

For the first couple of years after Tesla began making its Model 3, the car that is supposed to bring electric vehicles to the masses, it faced production problems that hampered its ability to make enough cars. Now that Tesla seems to have overcome that, it is facing more difficulties delivering cars to customers, and therefore, being able to book a sale."
Tesla lost $700 million in the first quarter with Model 3 problems | Washington Post

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

'Technology Needs to Be Regulated.’ Apple CEO Tim Cook Says No Oversight Has Led To Great Damage To Society | Time

For more interview details, see Tim Cook calls for regulation of tech industry with ‘serious issues,’ says government encryption case was rigged | 9to5Mac
"In the interview, Cook suggested that U.S. regulators could look to Europe’s passage of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018. “GDPR isn’t ideal,” said Cook. “But GDPR is a step in the right direction.”

In light of recent data breaches and foreign election influence through social media, Cook’s view is that the tech industry has no other responsible option but to accept more government oversight, a position he outlined in a recent TIME Ideas piece.

“I’m hopeful,” Cook said at the Summit. “We are advocating strongly for regulation — I do not see another path.”"
'Technology Needs to Be Regulated.’ Apple CEO Tim Cook Says No Oversight Has Led To Great Damage To Society | Time

Made in China, Exported to the World: The Surveillance State | NYT

A different form of surveillance capitalism...
"Ecuador shows how technology built for China’s political system is now being applied — and sometimes abused — by other governments. Today, 18 countries — including Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates and Germany — are using Chinese-made intelligent monitoring systems, and 36 have received training in topics like “public opinion guidance,” which is typically a euphemism for censorship, according to an October report from Freedom House, a pro-democracy research group.

With China’s surveillance know-how and equipment now flowing to the world, critics warn that it could help underpin a future of tech-driven authoritarianism, potentially leading to a loss of privacy on an industrial scale. Often described as public security systems, the technologies have darker potential uses as tools of political repression.

“They’re selling this as the future of governance; the future will be all about controlling the masses through technology,” Adrian Shahbaz, research director at Freedom House, said of China’s new tech exports."
Made in China, Exported to the World: The Surveillance State | NYT

Drone company Wing gets ‘air carrier’ approval from FAA, allowing deliveries that will launch in Virginia | Washington Post

Later in the article: "In Australia, an espresso maker wanted to deliver drinks, which Wing executives weren’t sure would be a great idea. But they tried it, and “it turned out to be fairly popular,” Burgess said."
"Wing, a delivery venture that is part of Google parent Alphabet, has become the first drone company to be certified as an “air carrier” by the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing it to launch a package-delivery service within months in Blacksburg, Va.

Company executives said they plan to expand to other parts of Virginia and around the nation, though the timeline for that remains unclear. Uber, UPS and other companies are also working on securing related approvals from federal officials, who have been pushing to expand drone use even as concerns about security and privacy remain."
Drone company Wing gets ‘air carrier’ approval from FAA, allowing deliveries that will launch in Virginia | Washington Post

Trump met with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — and complained about his follower count | Washington Post

Tbd if Trump will try to legalize Twitter bot voting before the 2020 election...
"The meeting came as Trump continues to attack the tech industry, threatening to regulate Facebook, Google and Twitter out of concern that they censor conservatives online — an allegation those companies fiercely deny. The president’s latest salvo arrived just hours before he met with Dorsey: Trump accused Twitter of playing “political games" and tampering with his nearly 60 million followers.

A significant portion of the meeting focused on Trump’s concerns that Twitter quietly, and deliberately, has limited or removed some of his followers, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation who requested anonymity because it was private. Trump said he had heard from fellow conservatives who had lost followers for unclear reasons as well.

But Twitter long has explained that follower figures fluctuate as the company takes action to remove fraudulent spam accounts. In the meeting, Dorsey stressed that point, noting even he had lost followers as part of Twitter’s work to enforce its policies, according to the source, who described the meeting as cordial."
On a related note, a Sam Harris tweet:
 Trump met with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — and complained about his follower count | Washington Post

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Samsung's Reputation Founders on Rush for Lead in Folding Phones | Bloomberg

On a brighter note, Samsung's folding phones apparently don't explode...
"Samsung Electronics Co. on Tuesday scrapped what was to have been a crowning achievement, the launch of the world’s first mass-produced foldable smartphone. Instead of trumpeting its April 26 return to the forefront of global consumer electronics, the tech giant is now investigating how test versions of the $1,980 Galaxy Fold developed problems -- including screen failures -- after mere days of use.

The about-face allows Samsung to avoid another fiasco like the Note 7 in 2016, when smartphones that had already found their way into consumers’ hands showed a tendency to burst into flames. But the Fold episode shows similar tendencies to rush ahead with new technologies to satisfy corporate goals in spite of engineering risks. Even inside Samsung, employees have to wonder how they so quickly got so close to another debacle."
Samsung's Reputation Founders on Rush for Lead in Folding Phones | Bloomberg

Elon Musk Predicts Tesla Driverless Taxi Fleet Next Year | NYT

Not a great week for Elon Musk so far; also see SpaceX suffers serious setback with crew capsule accident | AP; for more details on yesterday's Tesla event, see Tesla Bets Farm On Neural Network Based Autonomy With Impressive Presentation | Forbes
"Mr. Musk’s lofty prognostications about self-driving cars and the new business of robo-taxis came as investors are bracing for troubling news from the electric carmaker. On Wednesday, Tesla is expected to report a loss for the first quarter amid slumping sales. The company previously said it delivered 63,000 cars in the quarter, down 31 percent from the fourth quarter, despite beginning sales of its Model 3 sedan in Europe and China.

Wall Street analysts are also concerned that Tesla does not have enough cash on hand. It ended 2018 with $3.7 billion, but used nearly $1 billion for a payment to bondholders in March. It recently said its cash reserve was “sufficient.”

Tesla stock closed down nearly 4 percent on Monday, suggesting that many investors were skeptical about Mr. Musk’s predictions about self-driving cars."
Elon Musk Predicts Tesla Driverless Taxi Fleet Next Year | NYT

Sierra Club’s new guide to plug-in electric vehicles is out just in time for Earth Day | Washington Post

See this Sierra Club page for the guide; on a related note, Finding a place to charge your EV is easy with Google Maps | Google Keyword blog
"The Sierra Club marked Earth Day on Monday with an updated consumer’s guide to electric vehicles.

The interactive guide offers information on dozens of plug-in vehicles. There’s a quick questionnaire that helps to match a person’s driving habits and pocketbook to a selection of vehicles that most meet his or her needs.

By using their Zip codes, users can also find out what governmental policies and financial incentives are available. The guide will even analyze fuel savings compared with popular gas-powered vehicles in that area and calculate the vehicle’s emissions efficiency based on how green your area’s energy supply is. Since the Sierra Club’s last update in 2015, an additional 20 vehicles have been added to the guide."
Sierra Club’s new guide to plug-in electric vehicles is out just in time for Earth Day | Washington Post

Apple’s cloud business is hugely dependent on Amazon | The Verge

Apple's Google Cloud annual bill size tbd (see Apple confirms it now uses Google Cloud for iCloud services | The Verge from Feb 2018), but probably less than $9.5B (see Apple may have been paid $9.5B by Google in 2018 to stay default Safari search option | AppleInsider)
"Apple’s future beyond the iPhone increasingly involves software services, ranging from Apple Music and iCloud to its new TV Plus video offering and its News Plus magazine subscription. Yet a big factor in helping those cloud-based services operate across its nearly 1.5 billion active devices simultaneously is the company’s ongoing contract with Amazon, specifically Amazon’s cloud computing division. According to CNBC, Apple is one of Amazon Web Services’ biggest customers, with monthly payments to the cloud division totaling more than $30 million and increasing.

Now, CNBC reports that Apple has not publicly said it relies on AWS for more than iCloud. But even still, an expenditure of more than $360 million a year means Apple is deeply reliant on AWS to operate core parts of its business, even though doing so means working with a soon-to-be-rival in online video and a current competitor in areas like artificial intelligence, streaming music, and smart home products."
Apple’s cloud business is hugely dependent on Amazon | The Verge

Monday, April 22, 2019

Waze Wants to Help All of Us Win at Carpooling | Wired

From a timely Waze reality check
"Today, Waze has 475 employees, 115 million monthly active users, and some 30,000 volunteer map editors. This “community,” as Waze likes to call it, throws itself into one common goal that's something between an objective and a crusade. “Traffic is a global evil,” Waze writes on its website. “Only we, the People, can get ourselves out of this mess.”

Lately, though, Waze's war on traffic has hit a roadblock. After years of pouring unexpected traffic onto local streets (to the frequent consternation of local governments and residents), the company is running out of empty roads and workarounds for users. In many cities, traffic has gotten worse. And autonomous vehicles—which Waze's sister company, Waymo, is reportedly spending more than a billion dollars to develop—will only make the problem worse. “With self-driving cars, people will drive longer distances and will care less,” Bardin says. Which means more traffic.

It turns out that savvy programming, algorithms, and enthusiastic bands of community mappers can take a crusade only so far. So Waze has committed to a more, well, behavioral fix. It wants to consolidate more people into fewer cars—to get them to, ugh, carpool."
Waze Wants to Help All of Us Win at Carpooling | Wired

Friday, April 19, 2019

Apple vs. Facebook Enters a New Era | OneZero

Excerpt from a timely comparison:
"Still, Apple does have a relationship with many of the companies accused of the greatest privacy abuses. Facebook’s products live in the App Store and run on the iPhone, iPad, and MacBooks. The same goes for Google’s apps and, yes, Safari’s default search engine: Google.

On the other hand, Apple’s disinterest in your data has led to it developing its growing list of services and apps differently. While Google sends every query to its cloud, Apple manages its intelligence locally. While Google may be the default search engine in Safari, the web browser still has some protections that Google Chrome, for example, doesn’t.

Safari blocks third-party cookies and cross-site tracking by default. Since tracking codes and behaviors change regularly, Safari uses local machine learning to identify and cordon off trackers, renaming them so other sites can’t identify the trackers, essentially neutering their cross-site tracking capabilities. (Deleting all cookies on a single-site experience could result in a vastly diminished experience. For example, a banking site might lose your identity from page to page without a cookie.)"
Apple vs. Facebook Enters a New Era | OneZero

The fundamental laws of Facebook | Without Bullshit

Check the full post for 13 additional laws
"To that end: here are the fundamental laws of Facebook, which will explain not just this violation but all future violations:
  1. Facebook’s algorithm is supreme. All policies and engineering efforts serve the algorithm.
  2. The algorithm thrives on engagement. It will always evolve in directions that increase engagement. This imperative is stronger than all other forces including morality, humanity, shame, and logic.
  3. The algorithm generates revenue through targeted advertising, but this is an effect, not a cause. It is the algorithm, not the advertising, that rules all.
  4. Facebook management’s job is to more effectively serve the algorithm. All “decision-making” is actually in further service to the algorithm.
  5. The algorithm wants data. All of Facebook’s workers must increase the data available to the algorithm."
The fundamental laws of Facebook | Without Bullshit

Boston Dynamics latest video shows a herd of robotic dogs hauling a massive truck with ease | Washington Post

Check the full video here
"That unmistakable power and precision left many of the video’s nearly two million YouTube videos feeling deeply uneasy.

“Boston Dynamics CEO: “Okay, team. We haven’t freaked out the YouTube crowd in about two weeks,” a viewer named Scott Davidson wrote. "We need to stay on top of it. What have you got?”

“Wow now that they are making an army all they need to do is give those spots mounted machine guns and the end of the world is near,” another viewer with the name BlitzSterz added.

Boston Dynamics appears to delight in dropping simple yet startling videos without warning, revealing stunning advances in robotic technology without much context or comment. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about their latest video, but a caption at the bottom hinted at the machine’s commercial debut:

“These Spot robots are coming off the production line now and will be available for a range of applications soon,” the caption states."
Boston Dynamics latest video shows a herd of robotic dogs hauling a massive truck with ease | Washington Post

Samsung Stumble Risks Killing Foldable Phones at Birth | Bloomberg

It'll be interesting to revisit this article and its closing comparison after Apple introduces its AR glasses
"Samsung and many of its rivals have been gambling on the new form factor to, if not prompt a wave of new purchases, then at least allow them to raise their average prices. Smartphone sales have been slowing since their 2016 peak. Consumers are increasingly satisfied with the handsets they already own, so are replacing them less regularly. That’s why firms were developing foldable screens: Huawei Technologies Co. has its own competing model, while Xiaomi Corp. and Lenovo Group Ltd.’s Motorola are also working on the technology.

Samsung is easily the most significant of these players. Not only because it is the world’s biggest seller of smartphones, but also because it sells its technology to others, not least Apple. By some estimates, in fact, Samsung made more profit from supplying the iPhone X’s organic light-emitting diode display than it did from its own Galaxy S8. If Samsung gets the foldable tech right, then Apple could well use it in a future iPhone.

Samsung’s nightmare would be if the Galaxy Fold became another Google Glass. The smartglasses, released in 2013, proved an abject failure. The technology wasn't ready and pushed the appetite for augmented reality eyewear back by years. Foldable phones are different – they have far more obvious uses – but Samsung has to be careful not to kill the market before it even starts."
Samsung Stumble Risks Killing Foldable Phones at Birth | Bloomberg

Microsoft delves deeper into IoT with Express Logic acquisition | TechCrunch

I'm old enough to remember when Microsoft built its own operating systems (maybe not, considering the origins of MS-DOS, Xenix, Windows, and NT, but still...)
"Microsoft has never been shy about being acquisitive, and today it announced it’s buying Express Logic, a San Diego company that has developed a real-time operating system (RTOS) aimed at controlling the growing number of IoT devices in the world.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

Express Logic  is not some wide-eyed, pie-in-the-sky startup. It has been around for 23 years, building (in its own words) “industrial-grade RTOS and middleware software solutions for embedded and IoT developers.” The company boasts some 6.2 billion (yes, billion) devices running its systems. That number did not escape Sam George, director of Azure IoT at Microsoft,  but as he wrote in a blog post announcing the deal, there is a reason for this popularity.

“This widespread popularity is driven by demand for technology to support resource constrained environments, especially those that require safety and security,” George wrote."
Microsoft delves deeper into IoT with Express Logic acquisition | TechCrunch

Zoom rocketed 72% on first day of trading | CNBC

Also see I.P.O. Day for Pinterest and Zoom Ends With Shares Sharply Higher | NYT
"Videoconferencing software company Zoom made its debut Thursday on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “ZM,” surging 80% to $65 and closing out the day up 72% at $62.

At that price Zoom had a stock market value of $15.9 billion. Zoom is among a growing crop of tech companies going public in 2019, but with a twist: it’s profitable.

After filing to go public on March 22, Zoom estimated two weeks later that it would price shares in the range of $28 to $32. Zoom increased the range to between $32 and $35 this week, and on Wednesday it priced above the top of that range, valuing the company at $9.2 billion."
Zoom rocketed 72% on first day of trading | CNBC

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