"If Microsoft doesn't buy Acompli, whatever. You should still consider using this app on Android or iOS, as it's wonderful. But I really do hope that Microsoft buys this company and app. And then ports it everywhere. It's clearly something special. And it is no less than a "real" version of Outlook for Android and iOS, a single app that actually works with everything, and does so using a native user experience that looks right and works well on each platform."This is Why Microsoft Wants Acompli | Cloud content from Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Worth a look
Saturday, November 29, 2014
Excerpt from this week's cover story in The Economist
"There are also good reasons why governments should regulate internet monopolies less energetically than offline ones. First, barriers to entry are lower in the digital realm. It has never been easier to launch a new online product or service: consider the rapid rise of Instagram, WhatsApp or Slack. Building a rival infrastructure to a physical incumbent is far more expensive (just ask telecoms operators or energy firms), and as a result there is much less competition (and more need for regulation) in the real world. True, big firms can always buy upstart rivals (as Facebook did with Instagram and WhatsApp, and Google did with Waze, Apture and many more). But such acquisitions then encourage the formation of even more start-ups, creating even more competition for incumbents."Trustbusting in the internet age: Should digital monopolies be broken up? | The Economist
Final paragraph from a timely reality check
"This means that the big powers are not the only cyber-spies. The cutting-edge stuff is done by America, China and Russia, says Mr Hypponen, but F-secure thinks Pakistan, North Korea and some African countries are doing it, too. The low cost means that governments and firms can expect to suffer from more and more of it. Some are already taking drastic measures: Russia has ordered 20 typewriters, reportedly because of the vulnerability of computers. To paraphrase Mr Gibson: it seems that the future is already here, and it is becoming ever more evenly distributed."Computerised espionage: The spy who hacked me | The Economist
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Excerpt from a Slack snapshot; also see Three Questions with Slack’s CEO (MIT Technology Review)
"On the surface, no single factor seems to set Slack apart from a plethora of other collaboration tools. However, a closer look using the model described the book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Product, reveals the user psychology behind the company’s success.The Psychology of a Billion Dollar Enterprise App: Why is Slack so Habit-Forming? | Nir and Far
A habit is an impulse to take an action automatically, with little or no conscious thought. Slack’s ability to quickly form a habit could be the key to the company’s tremendous customer loyalty and high engagement.
Slack leads users repeatedly through a cycle called a “hook.” The four steps of the hook include a trigger, action, reward, and investment, and through successive passes through these hooks, the new habit is formed."
That could fund a lot of PR experts and lawyers
"A $35 billion to $40 billion value would also put San Francisco-based Uber at about 1.5 times the capitalization of microblogging service Twitter Inc. and at about the same size as Salesforce.com Inc., Delta Airlines Inc. and Kraft Foods Group Inc. Car-rental company Hertz Global Holdings Inc. has a market capitalization of $11.3 billion.Uber Said Poised to Raise Funds Showing $40 Billion Value - Bloomberg
Uber is raising more money to finance its international expansion, people close to the situation said earlier this month. The company, founded in 2009 by Garrett Camp and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, has rolled out its car-booking services to more than 220 cities worldwide."
Just another day at 1 Infinite Loop
"As the world’s largest company, Apple Inc. keeps winning the battle against itself. It just cleared another major milestone: Its market valuation topped $700 billion for the first time Tuesday.Apple’s Market Cap Tops $700 Billion - Digits - WSJ
It’s the largest company in the world by a landslide. The next largest are Exxon Mobil Corp. and Microsoft Corp., with market caps of $405 billion and $392 billion, according to FactSet. They’re not even close to touching Apple."
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Excerpt from a long-view DBMS/SQL/etc. perspective (thanks to Periscope for the reference)
"As various NoSQL databases matured, a curious thing happened to their APIs: they started looking more like SQL. This is because SQL is a pretty direct implementation of relational set theory, and math is hard to fool.
To paraphrase Paul Graham’s unbearably smug comment about Lisp: once you add group by, filter, & join, you can no longer claim to have invented a new query language, only a new dialect of SQL. With worse syntax and no optimizer.Cache is the new RAM | MemSQL - The Database for Speed, Scale & Simplicity
Because we had taken this strange detour away from SQL, crucial bits missing from most of the systems are a storage engine and query optimizer designed around relational set theory. Bolting that on later led to severe performance hits. For the ones that got it right (or papered it over by being resident in RAM) there were other bits missing like proper replication."
From an Uber/big-picture privacy reality check (incidentally, you don't need an Android phone to see your location history at google.com/locationhistory, referenced elsewhere in the article; running Google apps on your smartphone will facilitate Google location tracking)
"All of which is to underscore a point most of us at least dimly know: Information about us is constantly being collected. Data from cellphones track our movements. Cameras on the streets see what we’re doing. When we purchase something with a credit card, there’s a record tied of what we bought. Cable companies know the movies we’re watching; e-book companies know what we’re reading; websites track the stories we view.Uber’s revolution will drive on - Opinion - The Boston Globe
In this context, the data from ridesharing apps such as Uber’s God View are inconsequential. Indeed, even the anonymity of a traditional taxicab is disappearing. When you pay for your taxi with a credit card, your trip is recorded somewhere. And new apps such as Flywheel are seeking to help the taxicab industry by making it even more like Uber, Lyft, and their kin."
Uber removed blog post from data science team that examined link between prostitution and rides | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Chris O'Brien
Another busy week for Uber's PR team
"Neff said she went looking for the post after hearing a recent Marketplace story that mentioned another notorious Uber blog post that had also been taken down called: “Rides of Glory.”Uber removed blog post from data science team that examined link between prostitution and rides | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Chris O'Brien
As Marketplace recalls:
“The company examined its rider data, sorting it for anyone who took an Uber between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday night. Then it looked at how many of those same people took another ride about four to six hours later – from at or near the previous nights’ drop-off point. Yes, Uber can and does track one-night stands. Consider it the Uber equivalent of the walk of shame.”"
"The intended victims appear to be certain customers of the targeted ISPs and telecom companies. But Kaspersky notes a few classes of victims that Symantec did not: Government agencies, financial institutions and individuals doing advanced research into mathematics and cryptology. [...] Easily the most interesting and ominous disclosure from Kaspersky is the fact that the Regin malware was used to compromise GSM wireless phone base stations. Rather than hitting individual cell sites — or “base stations,” as they’re known — Regin was used to attack what are called Base Station Controllers, systems that manage several individual cell sites at a time."Kaspersky Labs Discloses More Info on the Super-Spy Malware Regin | Re/code
Full spectrum ecommerce
"Amazon wants to sell you a new flatscreen TV on Black Friday, and then help you mount it on your wall.Amazon Promotes Handyman and Installation Services | Re/code
The giant online marketplace has begun advertising services such as TV wall mountings and fan installations from local service providers alongside its product listings, according to search results on Amazon.com this evening. The services are being offered by companies that are taking part in a new offering called Amazon Local Services, which Reuters and the Wall Street Journal previously reported on."
Monday, November 24, 2014
Final paragraphs of a Google + European regulation reality check
"US regulators found that Google search was not a monopoly and declined to pursue a sweeping structural remedy against the company. Thus a decision to try and separate Google’s search business from other parts of the company would be difficult to accomplish on multiple levels and would only pertain to the company’s European operations, adding further complexity.Europeans Have Authority To Seek Google Break Up Though Unlikely To Do So
Vestager is likely to recognize the practical and legal challenges of what the European Parliament is calling for. It’s unlikely then that she and her organization will go down that path. But they also probably know the current settlement proposal is dead.
It’s now self-evident that something more “demanding” of Google will be required. But what that will be is not yet clear."
Curiously, no instances yet found on systems in China or the U.S. (per Re/code)...
"Symantec says the bug, named Regin, was probably created by a government and has been used for six years against a range of targets around the world.BBC News - Regin, new computer spyware, discovered by Symantec
Once installed on a computer, it can do things like capture screenshots, steal passwords or recover deleted files.
Experts say computers in Russia, Saudi Arabia and Ireland have been hit most.
It has been used to spy on government organisations, businesses and private individuals, they say."
The future is highly asynchronous
"Podcasts have moved beyond being a nerd curio because all of the friction has been removed from the process, which used to require setting up RSS feeds or cutting and pasting web addresses into a browser. Now, with the advent of ever smarter smartphones, it has become one more push-button technology, allowing consumers to download an app and listen to audio programming at a time of their choosing. If that sounds familiar — Netflix, anyone? — it’s no surprise that it will have similar transformative effects on traditional providers of serious audio programming, which means public radio."‘Serial,’ Podcasting’s First Breakout Hit, Sets Stage for More - NYTimes.com
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Developers, developers, developers, but don't neglect your school homework...
"Jeff Teper — the "father of SharePoint" and (as of earlier this year) Corporate Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Microsoft — explained the thinking behind Microsoft's Minecraft acquisition quite succinctly during a recent tech conference.Microsoft Strategy Vice President Teper: 'Minecraft is a development tool' | ZDNet
"Minecraft is a development tool," Teper told attendees of the UBS Global Technology Conference in Sausalito, Calif., last week. "People build worlds out of it. If we can get eight-year-old girls and boys building worlds and getting inspired by creating content digitally, as they grow up they'll want to create in PowerPoint, or Visual Studio. And in addition to being one of the few gaming franchises that doesn't have to be freemium, Minecraft can actually charge money. It turns out it's a great business with lots of upside.""
Final paragraphs of a Nicholas Carr pessimistic perspective piece; perhaps timely to revisit Shoshana Zuboff's "informating" concept
"We are amazed by our computers, and we should be. But we shouldn’t let our enthusiasm lead us to underestimate our own talents. Even the smartest software lacks the common sense, ingenuity and verve of the skilled professional. In cockpits, offices or examination rooms, human experts remain indispensable. Their insight, ingenuity and intuition, honed through hard work and seasoned real-world judgment, can’t be replicated by algorithms or robots.Automation Makes Us Dumb - WSJ
If we let our own skills fade by relying too much on automation, we are going to render ourselves less capable, less resilient and more subservient to our machines. We will create a world more fit for robots than for us."
Interesting case studies in cutthroat versus collaborative capitalism
"Uber and Airbnb have a lot in common: They are the tech startup darlings of the moment, they are valued in the tens of billions of dollars and make significant revenue, they connect the convenience of the Internet to the offline world, they are unpopular all over the world with incumbents and regulators and they exist by virtue of the non-employees who do the real work of renting their homes and driving their cars.The Difference Between Uber and Airbnb | Re/code
But where Uber is increasingly seen as an untrustworthy company due to its cutthroat handling of pricing, drivers, passengers and critical press — Airbnb is working to cultivate a very different image."
Windows only, at this point :(
"For more than two years, researchers and rights activists have tracked the proliferation and abuse of computer spyware that can watch people in their homes and intercept their e-mails. Now they’ve built a tool that can help the targets protect themselves.Detekt Is Free Software That Spots Computer Spyware - Businessweek
The free, downloadable software, called Detekt, searches computers for the presence of malicious programs that have been built to evade detection. The spyware ranges from government-grade products used by intelligence and police agencies to hacker staples known as RATs—remote administration tools. Detekt, which was developed by security researcher Claudio Guarnieri, is being released in a partnership with advocacy groups Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Privacy International."
A timely facial recognition reality check
"Concerns about privacy have largely faltered before the stated goal of most facial recognition programs: to recognize danger and to keep society safe. The belief that crime can be defeated through technological means propels innovations in the field ever onward. Today, companies are experimenting with more commercial uses of the technology as well—for example, to develop “ultra-targeted advertising.”Facial recognition technology goes way back - Ideas - The Boston Globe
With visions like that now on the horizon, here is a brief tour of how we got here: the moments when facial recognition shot ahead, and a few moments of concern along the way."
Friday, November 21, 2014
tbd if/when Google Contributor will get beyond experimental status
"It may seem odd for a company like Google, which made 89% of its $16.5 billion in third-quarter revenue from advertising, to enable publishers to build their businesses without advertising. But it isn't, really.Google to Help Publishers Make Money by Blocking Ads | Media - Advertising Age
For starters, Google's business of selling ads on other publishers' sites isn't as strong as it was a couple years ago. And the company has spent the past few years building up its non-advertising media business as a increasingly important source of revenue. Google's "other" revenue category includes sales of mobile apps, TV shows and movies and grew by 50% year-over-year in Q3 to $1.8 billion. And more recently Google's YouTube has expressed an interest in opening up an ad-free, subscription-based revenue stream. Last month YouTube boss Susan Wojcicki said the online video service was considering introducing a paid tier, and last week YouTube announced an ad-free, subscription-based music streaming service."
Excerpt from the conclusion of a detailed review
"It’s a reasonably good audio system at its base level, and the interaction with Alexa adds a lot of value. It is very useful when you need information to just ask Alexa to get it. After only a few hours of using the Echo you will likely find, as I did, that you are already coming to rely on Alexa.Amazon Echo review: A perfect 10 | ZDNet
After just a day with the Echo, it’s already become a routine for me to walk in the front door and tell Alexa to play some genre of music or artist. That’s impressive, as my front door is over thirty feet from the Echo. I already do it without thinking about it, which shows the beauty of the Amazon Echo. It becomes part of the environment."
Following the leaders
"Over the past few years, Apple, Google, and Facebook pledged to run their online empires on renewable energy, and considering how large these empires have become—how many data centers and machines are now required to keep them going—this was a vital thing. But despite pressure from the likes of Greenpeace, the environmental activism organization, the other big internet name, Amazon, didn’t budge.Amazon Vows to Run on 100 Percent Renewable Energy | WIRED
That all changed on Wednesday. With a post on its website, Amazon’s cloud computing division—Amazon Web Services—said it has a “long-term commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable energy usage for our global infrastructure footprint.”"
A promising leading indicator; in other VR news, see How Magic Leap Is Secretly Creating a New Alternate Reality (Gizmodo)
"Google unveiled the VR headset earlier this year. At the time, to be honest, I didn’t get it. Oculus VR’s Rift headset (now owned by Facebook) is state of the art virtual reality. Why would anyone want a cardboard knockoff?
Thanks to Jaunt VR and Paul McCartney, I now have my answer. [...]
Jaunt VR also plans to release the app on Oculus Rift and Samsung’s new Gear VR headset, which works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phone."Virtual Paul McCartney app is mind-blowingly cool
Given the popularity of music on YouTube, I suspect Google won't abandon this service after a year or two
"And then Google introduced YouTube Music Key, which gives YouTube all of the functionality its users have been clamoring for. First, you can watch music videos without any advertisements, so no more pre-roll before every darn Vevo hit. Second, you can now cache videos and playlists for offline playback on your phone. And finally, music will now continue to play in the background even when you switch to another app or lock your phone.Google Just Gave You a Good Reason to Quit Spotify
All of that, plus you get access to a full Google Music subscription, which is basically a Spotify clone. Once trials and introductory pricing wear off—you can get in for $8/month for a limited time, and the first six months are free—the whole shebang will cost $10 per month, the same exact amount as Spotify. In other words, you get the regular subscription music service you would be paying for anyway, plus a suite of neat new features that no one else can offer."
Twitter gets (and sends) the message
"Twitter has rolled out the first of several promised changes to make the service more user-friendly.Twitter Eases Pain of Sharing Tweets Through Direct Messages - Digits - WSJ
On Thursday, the company said users can now share tweets through direct messages, a feature that’s aimed to make it easier to continue public conversations in a private forum.
The new feature would also lessen the need for users to leave the site. Previously, users who wanted to share tweets privately would have to use email or copy and paste the link into a direct message."
Thursday, November 20, 2014
A big bonus for Bing, although, quoting from Mozilla CEO: It Wasn’t Money — Yahoo Was The Better Strategic Partner For Firefox (Marketing Land), "One bright spot for Google — it remains the Firefox partner in Europe, something the Firefox blog post omitted. That post made clear Yahoo was the new US choice, Yandex the new Russian choice and Baidu the choice in China."
"After six years of generating close to 90 percent of its revenue from referring Firefox browser users to search using Google, Mozilla announced today it is partnering with Yahoo instead.Yahoo Replaces Google as Mozilla Search Partner | Re/code
Mozilla and Google had continued their relationship despite the fact that Google’s Chrome competed directly with Firefox and surpassed its traffic in 2011. The latest three-year deal had Google paying Mozilla some $300 million per year.
Choosing Yahoo was about “choice and independence,” said Mozilla CEO Chris Beard. He noted Firefox users search the Web more than 100 billion times per year."
Check the link below for a Walt Mossberg review of Mac milestones and market momentum
"“The Mac is still really important to us,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Yes, we care about iPhones and iPads, and the new Apple Watch. But we care about the Mac just as much.”How the Mac went from obscurity to ubiquity | Re/code
I attribute the rebirth of the Mac to three main factors: Steve Jobs, the Internet, and blunders by Microsoft."
And the Beats goes on...
"Apple’s plans for Beats, the company it acquired for $3 billion earlier this year, are coming into sharper focus.Apple's Plans for Beats Music Start to Take Shape - NYTimes.com
Apple plans to include its Beats music service in future versions of iOS, its mobile software system for iPhones and iPads, according to people briefed on the plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans were not yet official."
A phabulous future for advertisers
"Marketers think of smartphones and tablets as the “second screen,” places where people direct their attention during commercial breaks on TV. It may be time to reverse those distinctions.We Now Spend More Time Staring at Phones Than TVs - Businessweek
People with access to a smartphone or tablet now spend an average of 2 hours and 57 minutes on them each day, says digital analytics firm Flurry, putting phones ahead of televisions as time-sucks. The old first screen on average gets about 2 hours and 48 minutes of attention each day, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The mobile device emerges as an even bigger winner when you filter the data for dedicated users. Flurry clocks daily mobile device users at 3 hours and 45 minutes per day, compared with 3½ hours for daily television watchers."
tbd how long it'll be until your insurance company offers you a discount to install this type of device
"You also get a driver score for good behavior, like avoiding speeding, rapid acceleration and hard braking. That sounds like a buzz kill for those who like to drive for sport, but it’s helpful if there’s a teenager in the house or if you’ve had a lot of speeding tickets. And both Mojio and Automatic would come in handy if you had a mechanical problem and needed a quick diagnosis.Picking Your Car’s Computerized Brain - NYTimes.com
Automatic also offers some free features that make it attractive to parents. One called License Plus coaches people through hours of driving practice to improve their overall skills and responses. Parents can also track their children’s driving habits through a web-based version of the Automatic software."
Also see Washington Post launches twice-daily tablet editions on Amazon Fire app (The Washington Post; I suppose that's an example of "native advertising"...)
"The app, which was designed to reduce the noise of the web to something as streamlined as a print publication, will be automatically added to certain Kindle Fire tablets in a software update. It will feature two editions each day, at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., times the company believes it will reach the most readers.Jeff Bezos Makes His Mark on Washington Post With New Kindle App - NYTimes.com
The app will be free for Kindle Fire owners for six months, and will then cost a dollar a month for the next six months. A version of the app will be available for Android and iOS operating systems next year, at $3.99 a month."
"I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you postpone that meeting..."
"In the future, IBM Verse users will even have the option to embed a Watson feature into their collaboration environment, enabling users to query IBM’s artificial intelligent supercomputer system on almost any topic “and receive a direct reply with answers ranked by degree of confidence.”Is this IBM email app creepy or just really efficient? | IT World Canada News
It’s almost like having a HAL 9000 in your PC, but actually Big Blue just hopes IBM Verse, with the help of cloud computing and analytics, will someday replace Outlook, Microsoft Corp’s personal information manager that has been handling the email, contacts, calendar, tasks and note taking duties in millions of computers since the late 1990s."
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Lead paragraphs from a detailed Hortonworks IPO reality check by Dave Kellogg
"It took me a week or so to get to it, but in this post I’ll take a dive into the Hortonworks S-1 filing in support of a proposed initial public offering (IPO) of their stock.It Ain’t Easy Making Money in Open Source: Thoughts on the Hortonworks S-1 | Kellblog
While Hadoop and big data are unarguably huge trends driving the industry and while the future of Hadoop looks very bright indeed, on reading the Hortonworks S-1, the reader is drawn to the inexorable conclusion that it’s hard to make money in open source, or more crassly, it’s hard to make money when you give the shit away."
An excellent resource for people exploring the big data/DBMS/etc. market landscape
"It has been some time since we updated our Data Platforms Landscape Map, and the map has been through something of an overhaul. It may not be obvious at first glance but we have completely reviewed all areas of the map, leading to some positional changes to better reflect the current state of the market.Updated Data Platforms Landscape Map – October 2014 — Too much information
The images below do not do the map justice of course. The full version of the October 2014 Data Platforms Landscape Map is freely available to download from the 451 Research site."
One of many scenarios explaining why your employer and/or insurance providers will likely offer to compensate you for using a wearable device and sharing the data it collects with them
"Personal injury cases are prime targets for manipulation and conjecture. How do you show that someone who’s been in a car accident can’t do their job properly, and deserves thousands of dollars in compensation? Till now lawyers have relied on doctors to observe someone for half an hour or so and give their, sometimes-biased opinion. Soon, they might also tap the wealth of quantifiable data provided by fitness trackers. A law firm in Calgary is working on the first known personal injury case that will use activity data from a Fitbit to help show the effects of an accident on their client."Fitbit Data Now Being Used In The Courtroom
Judging from the tech news today -- with collaborative workspaces, new email tools/services, and redoubled focus on productivity tools -- it's 1996 all over again...
"Microsoft has started to make flat-out dazzling products. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. The new Band health monitor has sold out and brought long lines to Microsoft stores for the first time ever. The new lineup of Windows Phones rivals anything else out there in terms of hardware and software design. Getting people to entertain such ideas and give forgotten products a try is another matter. The promise of more productivity hardly seems like the clarion call that Microsoft has been missing, but that’s what Nadella is betting on—and perhaps he’ll surprise us."Nadella's Mantra for Microsoft: 'Productivity.' Is That Counterproductive? - Businessweek
Likely to be at least as successful as IBM Workplace
"International Business Machines Corp. is launching a new offensive against Google Inc. and others in the email market, offering a Web-based service it plans to market directly to end users, a rare tactic for Big Blue.IBM Launching Web-Based Email Service - WSJ
On Tuesday, the computing giant unveiled IBM Verse, an email service melded with collaboration and social-media tools. The company is offering the cloud-based software free to individuals and small businesses, and also hopes to sell a commercial version to businesses."
Pretty clear Facebook understands the market dynamics described in the article referenced in my previous post
"Facebook, in its continuing effort to unbundle its core features into standalone services, is launching an app dedicated to Groups.Facebook Spins ‘Groups’ Into Separate App - Digits - WSJ
Smartphone users will still be able to access Groups from Facebook’s core mobile app. But Facebook is betting that giving Groups its own app will boost use of the feature on mobile phones. The app hits the iOS and Android app stores Tuesday."
Final paragraphs from an extensive Facebook reality check
"Taken together, these trends pose a direct challenge to Facebook’s supremacy. After all, Facebook is built around a trade-off that it has asked users to make: Give us all your personal information, post all your pictures, tag all your friends, and so on, forever. In return, we’ll optimize your social life. But this output is only as good as the input. And it turns out that, when scaled up, creating this input—making yourself legible enough to the Facebook machine that your posts are deemed “relevant” and worthy of being displayed to your mom and your friends—is exhausting labor.The Fall of Facebook - The Atlantic
These new apps, then, are arguments that we can still have an Internet that is weird, and private. That we can still have social networks without the social network. And that we can still have friends on the Internet without “friending” them."
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Later in the article: "The city also plans to remain hospitable to the cape-wearing set. CityBridge said it would maintain three existing “Superman pay phones” scattered along West End Avenue, where a small number of traditional phone booths have survived." Also see The Plan to Turn NYC's Old Payphones Into Free Gigabit Wi-Fi Hot Spots (Gizmodo)
"In fact, the pay phone of tomorrow will include no traditional phone at all — nor any payment, for that matter, at least for communication within the United States.Pay Phones in New York City Will Become Free Wi-Fi Hot Spots - NYTimes.com
But beginning next year, city officials said on Monday, the relics will evolve into something deemed far more practical: thousands of Wi-Fi hot spots across the city, providing free Internet access, free domestic calls using cellphones or a built-in keypad, a charging station for mobile devices and access to city services and directions."
Check the full post for some clever commercials
"How do you convince regular people to buy Google-owned monitoring gadgets and install them in their homes?Google’s Nest Runs First TV Ads | Re/code
First, don’t mention Google in your nationally televised ads.
Next, make those ads pretty funny.
That’s the strategy Google’s Nest is taking in TV ads — its first campaign — that started running today for its connected thermostat, its connected smoke alarm and its Dropcam monitors."
Excerpt from an extensive VR market profile
"Immersive, transporting, revolutionary. But most of all, non-nauseating. That’s the term that sets the Oculus Rift apart from the long line of demoralizing virtual-reality Edsels that preceded it. The chief asset of the Rift — more than its dazzling specs, more than Facebook’s sizable investment in it — is its dignified, non-emetic quality. All hail: the Oculus Rift doesn’t make you vomit."Virtual Reality Fails Its Way to Success - NYTimes.com
Cascading cloud economics
"The cloud infrastructure players are drastically cutting down prices and starting to create pricing pressure on service providers in India and elsewhere who continue to set contracts based on the number of engineers deployed in a project.Cloud Computing Set to Rain on Indian Outsourcers’ Parade - Digits - WSJ
Cloud infrastructure providers such as Amazon Web Services, Red Hat, Rackspace Hosting and others are emerging as a formidable threat to Indian outsourcers and other traditional service providers and consultants including International Business Machines and Accenture, that earn revenues from managing the technology infrastructure of clients."
Let's hope beyond-the-basics hypertext best practices can produce the best of both (Web + app) worlds; also see The web is alive and well (Quartz)
"Mountains of data tell us that, in aggregate, we are spending time in apps that we once spent surfing the Web. We’re in love with apps, and they’ve taken over. On phones, 86% of our time is spent in apps, and just 14% is spent on the Web, according to mobile-analytics company Flurry.The Web Is Dying; Apps Are Killing It - WSJ
This might seem like a trivial change. In the old days, we printed out directions from the website MapQuest that were often wrong or confusing. Today we call up Waze on our phones and are routed around traffic in real time. For those who remember the old way, this is a miracle.
Everything about apps feels like a win for users—they are faster and easier to use than what came before. But underneath all that convenience is something sinister: the end of the very openness that allowed Internet companies to grow into some of the most powerful or important companies of the 21st century."
Worth a look, if you have the misfortune of driving in a major city on a regular basis
"Luxe is an on-demand valet parking service. When you need to drive somewhere where parking is tough, like pretty much any part of San Francisco, open up the app and tell it where you’ll be going. Then start driving. When you get to your destination, a valet will be waiting for you on the side of the road. He’s wearing a blue jacket bearing the Luxe logo, and he greets you by your name, so you know he’s legit.Luxe Valet App Eliminates the Headache of Finding a Parking Spot - NYTimes.com
Hand him your car keys. Yes, don’t worry, it’s fine. Luxe is insured for $1 million against theft and damage, and it tracks your car with GPS. So, as I said, hand him your car keys. Tell him how long you’ll need your car parked. Watch him drive away with your car. If you want, you can look at the app to see a little icon representing your car making its way to a parking lot.
That’s it. Your car has been parked."
Monday, November 17, 2014
Excerpt from an extensive Microsoft reality check
"The Microsoft that just brought in record quarterly income, is the same Microsoft that faces severe challenges going forward. First, Mobile is the fastest growing segment in tech and Microsoft has no prospects there. Second, Microsoft’s business model is dependent upon licensing its Windows Operating System to manufacturers and that business model has been disrupted and is no longer viable. Third, approximately seventy percent of Microsoft’s income is generated by its Windows Operating System and its Office productivity suite but all of that income is coming from PCs (notebook and desktop personal computers) and PC sales are flat or declining.Microsoft Is (Sorta) Doomed | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
Let’s examine each those issues in one by one."
From a profile of the market for top programming skills; article subtitle: "Want to hire a coding superstar? Call the agent."
"The world is being rebuilt in code. Hiring computer engineers used to be the province of tech companies, but, these days, every business—from fashion to finance—is a tech company. City governments have apps, and the actress Jessica Alba is the co-founder of a startup worth almost a billion dollars. All of these enterprises need programmers. The venture capitalist Marc Andreessen told New York recently, “Our companies are dying for talent. They’re like lying on the beach gasping because they can’t get enough talented people in for these jobs."The Programmer’s Price
Excerpt from a detailed AWS financially-focused competitive reality check
"It's clear that Amazon has the weakest financial hand of the big three cloud providers and e-commerce just doesn't generate as much cash as search ads and software.Amazon's ability to invest in AWS: By the numbers | ZDNet
However, Amazon grabbed a lead with AWS and could extend it. It's unknown whether AWS' cash flow can be completely returned to grow the business, but it's safe to say that Jeff Bezos isn't going to scrimp.
So far, Amazon has been able to fund its infrastructure as well as generate returns via AWS and there's no evidence that investment will be pared. Sure, Amazon may have to become pickier about where it places its bets, but the company would be insane not to put its chips on AWS. And if the financials really became a problem, Amazon could float AWS as a quasi-independent company and simply emulate what EMC did with VMware."
Excerpt from an AWS (and overall cloud market dynamics) snapshot
"And analysts believe the pace is picking up across the handful of big tech companies providing cloud services. “Two years ago, public clouds were maybe 2 percent of all computing workloads,” said Lydia Leong, a senior analyst at Gartner. “Now they are more than 10 percent. By 2018, it will be more than 50 percent.”Amazon Moves to Extend Cloud-Computing Dominance - NYTimes.com
In addition to parading mainstream companies across the stage at its conference, Amazon released a type of database aimed straight at the core business of Oracle, the world’s largest database company. Oracle declined to comment on Amazon Web Services."
Some useful tips for tracking what Google tracks about you
"Google uses a lot of methods to learn about you. There's the stuff you tell Google outright when you sign up for its services, like Gmail and Google Maps, or via an Android phone, like your name, phone number, location, and so on. Google also deduces information about you from watching your internet searches (what do you search for? click on?) and from the stuff you do with Google's products.What Google Knows About You - Business Insider
By visiting a site called "Ads Settings" you can see what Google knows about you."
Excerpt from a wide-ranging Phil Libin interview
"WSJ: What kind of challenges do wearable devices, like Apple’s planned smartwatch, present for Evernote?Evernote Chief Sees Change as Challenge - WSJ
Mr. Libin: This will probably be our fourth watch version of Evernote, but it’s the first one where we’re making it for hundreds of millions of people. Evernote is a service that you will use in your car, on your refrigerator, on your watch, on your smart glasses, on your phone and on your TV, kind of all at once. That’s a really different way of designing things that no one really knows how to do yet. We don’t really know how it do it yet but we’re trying to figure it out pretty quickly."
We already have Facebook at work; Facebook for work might be a useful option, however
"The newspaper reports that the site will look very much like the Facebook you know and love, whilst competing with—gulp—LinkedIn Corp. The idea is that the site will allow you to chat with colleagues, connect with professional contacts and even collaborate, by working on documents and sharing files.Report: Facebook's Working on a New "Facebook at Work" Site
It's not the first time that there's been rumor of a Facebook for work. Earlier this year, TechCrunch reported that the company was working on a project called FB@Work—a system that "could be used in place of email or IM" to chat to colleagues. The site described by the Financial Times report clearly goes a little further."
Saturday, November 15, 2014
In other tech stock news, Apple is now worth more than Russia’s entire stock market (Cult of Mac)
"The bull run in Microsoft's stock this past year has helped the tech giant surpass Exxon Mobil and seize the rank of the second most valuable company, behind Apple Inc.News from The Associated Press
Under new CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has worked to overcome its reputation as a clumsy behemoth struggling to keep up with new tech trends and consumer habits. Nadella has cut expenses - and jobs - while pledging to refocus the company on mobile technology and cloud computing. His efforts have fueled a stock surge that drove Microsoft's total market value above $410 billion on Friday. That leapfrogged Exxon's value of $404 billion, which has been dinged by the drop in oil prices."
Excerpt from a Google Glass reality check
"While Glass may find some specialized, even lucrative, uses in the workplace, its prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers say.Google Glass Future Clouded as Some Early Believers Lose Faith | Re/code
Of 16 Glass app makers contacted by Reuters, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects.
Plenty of larger developers remain with Glass. The nearly 100 apps on the official web site include Facebook and OpenTable, although one major player recently defected: Twitter."
Amazon discussed similar strategies during its recent re:Invent 2014 conference
"As it announced that the Altoona data center is now serving traffic to some of its 1.35 billion users, the company also revealed how its engineers pieced together the computer network that moves all that digital information through the facility. The rather complicated arrangement shows, in stark fashion, that the largest internet companies are now constructing their computer networks in very different ways—ways that don’t require expensive networking gear from the likes of Cisco and Juniper, the hardware giants that played such a large role when the foundations of the net were laid."Facebook's New Data Center Is Bad News for Cisco | WIRED
Navigating net neutrality politics
"It’s not surprising that these companies don’t want to talk openly about net neutrality. They have little to gain by alienating business partners such as Verizon, AT&T (T), and Comcast. Groups like the Telecommunications Users Committee exist to shield them from those conflicts, even as the companies quietly pursue policy goals in talks with the FCC.Net Neutrality: Ford, UPS, Visa, and BofA Lobby FCC in Secret - Businessweek
What is surprising is that such nontech companies as Ford and Bank of America feel strongly enough about net neutrality to bother advocating behind closed doors. A startup like video streaming service Vimeo (IACI) clearly has a lot to lose from Internet fast lanes—the risk to a trucking company like UPS is a bit less obvious."
Another unsubtle push for relevant and engaging content
"Even posts from big advertisers that spend millions of dollars on Facebook ads will vanish from the news feeds of their fans unless they turn them into ads. “It’s a clear message to brands: If you want to sound like an advertiser, buy an ad,” said Rebecca Lieb, a digital advertising and media analyst at the Altimeter Group. Facebook says that it’s all for the good of the users and that creative, engaging posts will still attract attention and bubble up into the feed."Facebook Will Curtail Unpaid Ads by Brands - NYTimes.com
Friday, November 14, 2014
Excerpt from an Amazon re:Invent conference summary
"If it wasn't already obvious, AWS intends to make running your own data center as quaint as generating your own electricity. With the advent of Aurora, AWS is knocking on the datacenter's door, asking to host the most business-critical apps.Amazon vs Oracle: a database war | ZDNet
In his speech, Andy Jassy, SVP of AWS, specifically called out the "expensive and punitive" licensing model of major database vendors. With pay-as-you-go pricing, Aurora offers a stark and refreshing change.
The pricing is going to force IT to seriously consider what AWS offers. Giving up some bells and whistles for 1/10th the cost makes any CFO's heart glad. "
The latest in domestic surveillance innovation...
"By taking the program airborne, the government can sift through a greater volume of information and with greater precision, these people said. If a suspect’s cellphone is identified, the technology can pinpoint its location within about 10 feet, down to a specific room in a building. Newer versions of the technology can be programmed to do more than suck in data: They can also jam signals and retrieve data from a target phone such as texts or photos. It isn’t clear if this domestic program has ever used those features.Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret U.S. Spy Program - WSJ - WSJ
Similar devices are used by U.S. military and intelligence officials operating in other countries, including in war zones, where they are sometimes used to locate terrorist suspects, according to people familiar with the work. In the U.S., these people said, the technology has been effective in catching suspected drug dealers and killers. They wouldn’t say which suspects were caught through this method."
From an extensive Larry Page/Google profile
"Google’s original mission—“to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”—once seemed preposterously audacious. Today that vision “is probably a bit too narrow,” Page says. He wants the company he co-founded as a Stanford grad student to continue altering the world in ways unimaginable to most. It’s the combination of that intensity of purpose with Google’s eye-poppingly strong financial results that makes Page Fortune’s 2014 Businessperson of the Year."Google's Larry Page: The most ambitious CEO in the universe
Excerpt from a Facebook advertising snapshot
"In Mr. Zuckerberg’s view, advertising is valuable content, just like a baby photo posted by your best friend. So the new Privacy Basics tutorial encourages you to take advantage of Facebook’s Ad Preferences tool, which allows you to tell the company what topics you are interested in so that you get more ads on those topics.Facebook Tries to Explain Its Privacy Settings but Advertising Still Rules - NYTimes.com
Ad preferences were first turned on in the United States in June, and the social network is now rolling them out to its users in the Britain, Ireland, Germany, France and Australia."
Interesting times in digital advertising
"High-frequency traders have found a new market to exploit. A growing percentage of the billions of display ads that pop up on computer screens are sold to the highest bidder at online marketplaces such as AppNexus, Microsoft Ad Exchange (MSFT), PubMatic, Rubicon Project (RUBI), and Yahoo! Ad Exchange (YHOO). Before the ads appear, they change hands in a complex volley of electronic trades among websites, ad space aggregators, exchanges, data analysts, and ad agencies. Real-time bidding “tends to be fabulously complicated,” says Ben Edelman, an associate professor at Harvard Business School who studies online advertising. “The number of intermediaries in a single ad placement can be just extreme.”"High-Frequency Traders Turn to Online Display Ads Market - Businessweek
Amazon business as usual
"James L. McQuivey, a Forrester analyst, said that if Hachette won in the short term, it would be a different story in the long run.Amazon and Hachette Resolve Dispute - NYTimes.com
“Hachette got Amazon to allow them to control pricing while also cutting the amount of money Amazon takes if the publisher does engage in discounts, which appears like a victory,” the analyst said. “But in the end this all cements Amazon’s ultimate long-term role in this business, which will only put Hachette right back in this situation every time they are up for renegotiation.” "
Thursday, November 13, 2014
New frontiers for DBMS automation and optimization; check the link below for additional details
"Today we are launching Aurora, is a fully-managed, MySQL-compatible, relational database engine that combines the speed and availability of high-end commercial databases with the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of open source databases.Amazon Aurora - New Cost-Effective MySQL-Compatible Database Engine for Amazon RDS
When you use Amazon RDS for Aurora, you'll spend less time managing and tuning your database, leaving you with more time to focus on building your application and your business. As your business grows, Amazon Aurora will scale with you. You won't need to take your application off line in order to add storage. Instead, Amazon Aurora will add storage in 10 GB increments on as as-needed basis, all the way up to 64 TB. Baseline storage performance is rapid, reliable and predictable—it scales linearly as you store more data, and allows you to burst to higher rates on occasion. You can scale the instance size in minutes and you can add replicas with a couple of clicks."
Also see Forget Taylor Swift: Spotify is facing a much bigger problem (Quartz)
"On Wednesday, YouTube unveiled YouTube Music Key, a long-awaited upgrade of its music offerings that will include higher-quality audio for most songs and give users the option of paying $8 a month for extra features, chief among them removing YouTube’s ubiquitous ads.YouTube Music Key Is Introduced as New Rival in Streaming - NYTimes.com
With its new service, YouTube hopes to reform its reputation in the music industry as a phenomenal free site to promote songs, but one that pays a pittance in royalties. “We want to give fans more ways to enjoy music on YouTube, but also give artists more opportunities to connect with fans and earn more revenues,” said Christophe Muller, its music partnerships director."
A peculiar privacy paradox
"Pew offered some evidence that people are inured to the trade-offs of using digital services: Ninety-one percent agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control over how their personal information is collected or used by companies. They are unsure what to do about it, though.Americans Say They Want Privacy, but Act as if They Don’t - NYTimes.com
Nearly two-thirds say they would like to do more to protect the privacy of their personal information online. About the same number think the government should do more to protect them."
Producing at least a short-term gain for investors; also see Six New Features to Expect From Twitter (WSJ)
"For its core service, which is being overseen by its fifth leader in as many years, Twitter unveiled several features and changes to make the service easier to use and more valuable for its entire audience. The coming changes include the ability to upload and share videos, beefing up private messaging, more targeted notifications, better use of location, and a “while you were away” feature, which will highlight relevant tweets that were missed while the user was offline.Twitter Sharpens Its Strategy to Win Over Investors - Digits - WSJ
New users will also be greeted with an “instant timeline” that removes the need for them to first follow accounts in order to see tweets, a time-consuming process that has been a turn off for novices."
Having sold the Motorola Mobility business to Lenovo, Google finds success (or at least positive reviews) with ... a Motorola smartphone; also see Nexus 6 Review: A Sweet Treat for Those Who Crave Big Phones (Re/code)
"The bottom line: If you’re in the market for a phablet, you’d be crazy not to weigh the Nexus 6 against the iPhone 6 Plus and the Note 4. None of those phones are good for one-handed operation, but if you need a big screen—for books, movies, emails and websites—then start here. You’ll love the increased real estate and extra battery life."Nexus 6 Review: Great Phone, But You’re Going to Need a Bigger Hand - WSJ - WSJ
A new direction for Apple Maps (check the Drive | Walk | Apps options when searching for directions)
"Its interface is attractive and uncluttered, with nice big turn directions and subtle colors.The Map Apps That Move You in the Right Direction - NYTimes.com
But frustrations remain. Apple Maps still lacks public transit directions — it offers just driving and walking navigation. There is, however, a new option called Apps. If you select that option, Apple Maps can open up a second transportation app that you have installed, like a subway app, Google Maps or MapQuest, that does have transit information. The second app opens when you tap a Route button.
But that extra step seems unnecessary. It’s a hack, not an actual fix for the missing transit maps."
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Definitely not business as usual in Redmond
"Microsoft’s long and contentious relationship with open source reached a major milestone today, when the company announced at its invitation-only Connect() event for developers in New York that it would open-source the entire server-side .Net stack and launch a new open source version of its flagship IDE, dubbed Visual Studio Community. The company also gave a preview of Visual Studio 2015 and .Net 2015.Microsoft open-sources server-side .Net, launches Visual Studio 2015 preview | InfoWorld:
Today, Microsoft announced that it will open-source the entire server-side .Net stack -- everything from the ASP.Net Web tools, through the languages, and even the underlying .Net runtime. Working through the .Net Foundation, the initial release will be a selection of libraries, with the rest of the stack releasing over the next few months."
Final paragraph from a MOOC reality check
"In 2012, Stanford president John Hennessy pronounced that the MOOC was going to be “transformative to education.” But, he added, “We don’t really understand how yet.” Two years later, the landscape remains much the same: MOOCs are a technology with potentially revolutionary implications for education, but without a precise plan for realizing that potential. One way of getting there could be for the leaders of the MOOC movement to look more closely at old methods, from when education was less massive, less open, and entirely offline."Why MOOCs are Failing the People They're Supposed to Help
For a bigger-picture drone perspective, see Book Review: Analyzing the Drone Debates: targeted killing, remote warfare, and military technology by James DeShaw Rae (LSE Review of Books)
"Warfare is increasingly guided by software. Today, armed drones can be operated by remote pilots peering into video screens thousands of miles from the battlefield. But now, some scientists say, arms makers have crossed into troubling territory: They are developing weapons that rely on artificial intelligence, not human instruction, to decide what to target and whom to kill.Fearing Bombs That Can Pick Whom to Kill - NYTimes.com
As these weapons become smarter and nimbler, critics fear they will become increasingly difficult for humans to control — or to defend against. And while pinpoint accuracy could save civilian lives, critics fear weapons without human oversight could make war more likely, as easy as flipping a switch."
Excerpt from a timely Microsoft platform reality check
"Microsoft's new Sway app is coming to iOS before Windows or Windows Phone. The Revovle contact-calendar mash-up app the company showed off in very early preview form will debut on iPhone. Office on iPad and Office on Android beat to market the touch-first Office suite, known by some as Gemini, by months (or in iPad's case, more than a year).With a new platform-neutral Microsoft, why go Windows? | ZDNet
It's almost as if Microsoft — which has a history of overcorrecting when it makes a wrong turn (see making Windows Phone a consumer platform without enterprise support for years, for just one example) — is so intent on proving it's not the Windows company any more that it's leaving Windows users out to dry."
"Armstrong, a former Google executive who has been at the helm at AOL since 2009, is credited with reviving a dying brand, helped by a set of purchases including Adap.TV, an automated video advertising platform. AOL’s market cap of $3.5 billion has roughly doubled in value during his tenure.Exclusive: Some unhappy Yahoo investors asking AOL for rescue | Reuters
Yahoo stock has tripled since Mayer joined Yahoo as CEO in July 2012, but analysts say those gains have been primarily driven by the rapid appreciation in the value of its Asian assets. Mayer has urged investors to be patient for what she has said will be a multi-year effort to revitalize the company.
Some of the investors seeking a merger want Mayer to pull back from acquisitions, although on Tuesday the company announced a $640 million deal to buy video advertising platform BrightRoll -- a competitor to Adap.TV."
Raising the stick bar
"Google announced Tuesday that is had added about a dozen game applications, including sped-up versions of Scrabble and Monopoly, to its Chromecast streaming device. The idea is to turn living room TVs into a game board that friends and families could play in tandem, using their mobile phones as a joystick.Google Chromecast Adds Games - NYTimes.com
“This is our first attempt to rethink how a game can work with this new cast model,” said Rishi Chandra, director of product management for Chromecast."
A big study day for Google and Microsoft
"Indeed, Andy Jassy, the AWS chief, is set to announce during his keynote address on Wednesday that Amazon now counts more than 1 million businesses and government agencies among its customers. The company has previously said its active customers numbered in the hundreds of thousands.Amazon Conference Showcases Another Side of the Retailer’s Business - Digits - WSJ
Jassy declined in an interview to disclose AWS annual revenue, nor would he say whether the unit is profitable. Analysts estimate AWS generates at least $4 billion a year in sales.
AWS re:Invent, which features nearly 300 sessions and a keynote address from Werner Vogels, Amazon’s chief technologist, is not meant to drum up new business, Jassy said. “This is not a sales and marketing conference for us, it really is an education conference."
Perplexing policy politics; also see The FCC weighs breaking with Obama over the future of the Internet (The Washington Post)
"Large Internet businesses have written a few letters to regulators in support of the issue and have participated in the back-channel lobbying effort, but they have not joined online protests, or otherwise moved to mobilize their users in favor of new rules.In Net Neutrality Push, Internet Giants on the Sidelines - NYTimes.com
Why not? They may be too big to bother with an issue that primarily affects the smallest Internet companies. And that is a shame.
The White House’s proposal is seen as the beginning of what could be a heated battle on net neutrality. Supporters are gearing up for a fierce fight at the F.C.C. and in the incoming majority-Republican Congress. In other words, it’s going to get ugly — and now, more than ever, reinforcements from tech giants would help the neutrality cause."
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Microsoft offers one-year of Office 365 Home, Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Music Pass, and Skype Unlimited for $199 | VentureBeat | News Briefs | by Emil Protalinski
Bundling is back
"Microsoft is testing a new Work & Play Bundle that features four of its subscriptions: Office 365 Home, Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Music Pass, and Skype Unlimited World + WiFi. A one-year commitment will set you back $199, but you can only buy it by going to a physical Microsoft Store in the U.S.Microsoft offers one-year of Office 365 Home, Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Music Pass, and Skype Unlimited for $199 | VentureBeat | News Briefs | by Emil Protalinski
Let’s do the math, shall we? Office 365 Home costs $9.99 per month, or $119.88 for the year. 12 months of Xbox Live Gold costs $59.99 while a 12-month Xbox Music Pass costs $99.90. Skype Unlimited World is $13.99 per month, though you can get the first month for free, so that’s $153.89.
All of that adds up to $433.66. So yes, $200 is more than a 50 percent discount."
A major milestone for the "Hadoop platform" category
"In the filing, Hortonworks disclosed a net loss of $36.6 million on $11 million in revenue in its 2013 fiscal year ended April 30. It said it recently shifted its fiscal year to end on Dec. 31. For the first nine months of 2014, it posted an $86.7 million loss on $33.3 million in revenue.Hortonworks Files to Float Public Shares in 2015 | Re/code
Hortonworks was part of the wave earlier this year of massive investments in Hadoop companies that has clocked in at more than $1 billion. Hortonworks had already raised nearly a quarter of a billion dollars, including $150 million from computing giant Hewlett-Packard and the investment firm Blackrock. Its latest investment rounds valued the company at north of $1 billion. Other investors include Benchmark Capital, whose partner Peter Fenton sits on its board."
The FCC answers more to Congress than to the president, so actual results may vary
"The Federal Communications Commission, Mr. Obama said, needs to adopt the strictest rules possible to prevent broadband companies from blocking or intentionally slowing down legal content and from allowing content providers to pay for a fast lane to reach consumers. That approach, he said, demands thinking about both wired and wireless broadband service as a public utility. “For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access into and out of your home or business,” Mr. Obama, who is traveling in Asia, said in a statement and a video on the White House website. “It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information — whether a phone call or a packet of data.”"Obama Asks F.C.C. to Adopt Tough Net Neutrality Rules - NYTimes.com
Off to a strong start; also see Why Facebook Has Entrusted Its Future to the [Former] CEO of PayPal (Wired)
"There is no shortage of messaging apps, a field that includes new Facebook family member WhatsApp, which itself has more than 600 million users world-wide. With all of the options out there, hitting a half-billion recurring users — not people who downloaded and abandoned the app to some dusty folder – is a win for Facebook and whatever its ultimate plan are for Messenger."Facebook Wins: More Than 500 Million Are Using Messenger - Digits - WSJ
Monday, November 10, 2014
A new take on vertical integration
"It's never been a better time to be a budding third-world internet entrepreneur: Google's trying to use balloons to bring you online, Facebook wants to use drones to upload your selfies, and now a third big Silicon Valley name is lending a helping hand. According to a WSJ report, Elon Musk is planning to launch a 700-satellite constellation to bring the whole world online.Report: Elon Musk Is Next In Line To Connect To The Third World
Musk is said to be working with Greg Wyler, a former Google exec and current owner of WorldVu Satellites. They want to use a giant constellation of small, cheap satellites to blanket the globe with internet coverage, hopefully making space-based internet reliable and somewhat affordable."
As Microsoft & Dropbox join forces, the death of file sync and share is one step closer | VentureBeat | Cloud | by Stuart Cochran, Huddle
Feature, not product/platform
"So, why is standalone EFSS slowly disappearing? File sync and share has always been about solving the problem of backing up a user’s documents, at the same time as making them available on all of the user’s devices, mobile as well as PC. However, as more and more applications, such as Microsoft Office, themselves move to the cloud, pure file sync and share solutions are becoming commoditized and appearing as a feature, both in productivity applications and more powerful team collaboration solutions. The latter, designed specifically to enable teams to work better together, increasing productivity, and creating new ways to interact with customers, partners and suppliers, is where the true value lies for enterprise and government organizations."As Microsoft & Dropbox join forces, the death of file sync and share is one step closer | VentureBeat | Cloud | by Stuart Cochran, Huddle
Not clear Apple and Google would agree with this categorization scheme
"“To me Apple’s very, very clear, and, in fact, I think Tim Cook did a great job of even describing that very recently where he said they sell devices,” Mr. Nadella said last week, sitting in an armchair. “That’s what Apple is all about.Microsoft's Nadella Talks About the Future of Office - NYTimes.com
“And Google is about being — you know, it’s about data or it’s about advertising, it is about serving you ads in a tasteful way, and they’ve done a great job of that business,” he continued.
Microsoft’s identity, in contrast, is about making products that empower others in their work and personal lives, he said. “From the creator of a document to a developer writing an app, to anyone else” who is in the business of actually producing their own creation, he said, “we want to be the tools provider, the platform provider. That’s the core identity.”"
Friday, November 07, 2014
Check the link below for more details on Office for Android and a touch-first version of Office for Windows
"Office for Android will be generally available in "early 2015", according to company officials. A basic, consumer-focused version Office for Android tablets will be available for free; a version with more business-focused features will require an Office 365 subscription — just like Office for iPad does. Users will be able to view, create and edit content in the Office for Android tablet apps without a subscription, but not access more advanced editing/creation features or take advantage of unlimited OneDrive storage without one."Microsoft kicks off its Office for Android tablets preview | ZDNet
No more Office 365 requirement for full Office smartphone/tablet functionality
"Microsoft started to suggest a more open posture earlier this year, when it released an iPad version of Office that could be used to read documents, spreadsheets and presentations. If users wanted to edit or print those documents, though, they needed to pay a subscription fee to Microsoft. Now Microsoft is doing away with those hindrances. It is starting to test similarly full-featured and free Office apps for tablets running Android, Google’s mobile operating system. And it is updating Office apps for iPhone to allow editing, at a time when Apple’s new big-screen smartphones are making it easier to get work done on the devices."Microsoft Changes Tack, Making Its Office Suite Free on Mobile - NYTimes.com
Check this Amazon page for more details
"The utter failure of the Fire Phone apparently hasn’t curtailed Amazon’s huge ambitions in hardware. The company today unveiled Amazon Echo, a slightly quixotic, 9-inch tall speaker that plays music, fields voice commands and Internet queries, responds in a pleasant conversational voice, and of course (since this is Amazon, after all) will obey instructions to put various products into your Amazon.com (AMZN) shopping cart."Amazon Echo Is a Listening, Talking, Music-Playing Speaker for Your Home - Businessweek
Thursday, November 06, 2014
Another MCX/CurrentC challenge
"Although it's still unclear whether Apple Pay will gain the critical mass of users necessary to become a true checkout stand alternative, Tim Cook recently said that one million cards were activated on Apple Pay in the first 72 hours of the platform's launch (although ReadWrite notes that one million cards is hardly a revolution). It seems that interest in the platform is buoying Apple's predecessor among Android users as well. Although there are some key differences in the way the two platforms work behind the scenes, the experience from the average user's perspective is close to identical."Google Wallet use grows after Apple Pay launch | Ars Technica
Google Maps as a remote control for your mobile life
"In addition to providing turn-by-turn directions, business reviews, and photos, the new Maps lets users book a table for dinner without leaving the app. Previously the app offered a link to Open Table, but the new version saves users the step of clicking through to OpenTable’s mobile web site.Google Maps App Adds OpenTable Restaurant Reservations - Digits - WSJ
The OpenTable integration is similar to what Google has done with car-hailing service Uber. The Maps app previously included a link to Uber’s mobile app, offering users an alternative to public transit. Now, in addition to launching Uber, it shows how long it would take for an Uber car to arrive as well as the estimated drive time and fare to reach a given destination. (Google’s venture arm has a large investment in Uber.)"
Excerpt from a news app review
"The two best news apps are Flipboard (free on iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone) and Circa News (free on iOS and Android). Both are simply heads above all the competition.Flipboard, Circa and Other Apps to Keep Track of the News - NYTimes.com
Each one pulls into one place news and commentary from diverse sources — from Twitter to newspaper websites — but they work in slightly different ways. Flipboard mostly uses algorithms to compile its offerings. Circa uses an old-fashioned approach to choose its content — a team of editors. Either will give you a great selection of information."
Internet advertising evolution => mobile apps + "native advertising"; for some Facebook perspectives on mobile advertising market dynamics, see Expert Outlook: Facebook's Carolyn Everson (Bloomberg Businessweek)
"You can’t blame the web’s decline entirely on the usability nightmare perpetuated by banner ads. But it’s obvious that banners are not helping. If you switch from an app like Facebook or Instagram to the overcrowded, overstuffed, slow-loading web, you are bound to see a carnival of pop-ups and interstitials — interim ad pages served up before or after your desired content — and scammy come-ons daring you to click. Is it any wonder, really, that this place is dying?"Fall of the Banner Ad: The Monster That Swallowed the Web - NYTimes.com
Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Google Cloud goes corporate with peering, carrier interconnects, VPN — Tech News and Analysis [Gigaom]
Final paragraphs of a review of Google Cloud-related announcements
"On Monday, IDC estimated that the public cloud market is worth about $56.6 billion this year and will hit $127 billion by 2018, a 22.8 percent compound annual growth rate over five years.Google Cloud goes corporate with peering, carrier interconnects, VPN — Tech News and Analysis
One thing seems clear about Google: Those who doubted this company’s desire to make its cloud a destination for business workloads had better think again."
In other Prime news, see Amazon Begins Extending Prime-Member Perks to Other Shopping Sites (Re/code)
"Amazon Prime members are getting another benefit today, the company announced this morning: free, unlimited photo storage. In a new service called Prime Photos, paying subscribers of Amazon’s membership program will now be about to store photos in their original resolutions to Amazon Cloud Drive from any device, including iOS, Android, and Fire phones and tablets, as well as Mac and Windows PCs.Amazon Prime Members’ Newest Benefit Is Free, Unlimited Photo Storage | TechCrunch
These photos can then be viewed on those devices, as well as on the big screen via Amazon Fire TV, the new Fire TV Stick, game consoles like the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, and some models of LG and Samsung smart TVs."
Probably a very busy week for the Verizon Wireless PR and legal departments
"“Verizon users might want to start looking for another provider,” he wrote in a blog post on Monday about the program, which involves injecting a header containing a unique, anonymous identifier into a Verizon Wireless user’s request for a web page. “Indeed, while we’re concerned about Verizon’s own use of the header, we’re even more worried about what it allows others to find out about Verizon users.”Verizon Wireless Under Fire for Ad-Targeting Program - NYTimes.com
Verizon’s ad-targeting method groups these identifiers into different buckets of demographics and interests, so if a website is looking to serve certain ads to a specific type of customer, it will look for those buckets and serve up those ads."
Perhaps another entry for the Nexus future collectors' item club
"In the end, you’ll choose Apple TV if you use Apple products and services more than others. You’ll choose Roku 3 if you want the broadest choices of content (especially if you’re a customer of cable companies other than Comcast, such as Time Warner Cable). You’ll go with Amazon if you’re an Amazon Prime member who also wants to do casual gaming.Nexus Player Review: Ambitious Hardware, But Needs Content to Beat Competition - WSJ - WSJ
The Nexus Player can compete on a technical level, but to rise above these others, it needs more games and other Android apps, plus a truly universal search function to tie all of the video streams together."
Final paragraph of a critical Microsoft Band review
"Microsoft certainly has plans to analyze and correlate the information in ways that the individual contributors don’t have the power to do. But for now, the Microsoft Health club is feeling empty and the Band is weak."Microsoft Band Review: The Fitness Watch Built for Running Needs to Walk First - WSJ - WSJ
Looking like it may be another slow tech "news" day...
"“The device created a clinically meaningful visual field obstruction in the upper right quadrant,” the paper said.Google Glass May Have a Blind Spot, Study Says - NYTimes.com
The study did not say anything about Glass’s function, nor did it address whatever effects there might be from having emails and other data flash constantly in front of one’s eyes. In fact, the glasses were turned off for the experiments on which the paper is based. “We didn’t look at the software or any of that,” Dr. Ianchulev said."
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
We've come a long way from November 4, 1952: CBS News Uses UNIVAC Computer to Predict Election (Computer History Museum)
"A new study from the Pew Research Center found that more than twice as many registered voters are using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to follow politicians and campaigns for the 2014 midterm elections than the 2010 midterms.Pew Study: Midterm Elections Are More Social Than Ever | Re/code
Roughly 16 percent of registered voters follow candidates, political parties or elected officials on social media sites, according to Pew, up from only 6 percent in 2010. According to Pew, the top three reasons people are following politicians: To get news quickly, create “personal connections” with candidates and receive “more reliable” information than what the general media organizations provide."
Monday, November 03, 2014
Excerpt from a strongly net-positive review
"But compared to some of the competition, the Microsoft Band is a full-featured device that might be the most flexible wearable device on the market.Microsoft's New Fitness Tracking Device Is a Welcome Surprise - NYTimes.com
It combines useful smartphone notifications for incoming calls, text messages, emails and calendar items with fitness tracking that includes constant heart-rate monitoring. That feature is still rare even in fitness bands.
It tracks steps, estimates calorie use during activities at the gym, and has a built-in GPS so it can track your running or cycling route without your having to have your phone with you. It tracks your movements during sleep, and there is even a Starbucks app: You can load up a Starbucks card and make payments with the band."
In other advertising + publishing innovation news, see E-Book Mingles Love and Product Placement (NYT)
"Of the many attempts at new approaches to publishing — native advertising, custom content, sponsored content — SugarString sets a new low. It was a bad idea with a pratfall of a rollout, a transparent attempt to project brand might into a very controversial conversation. The fact that the name of the corporation bringing you the information is at the bottom of every story, not the top, is an attempt to hide the fundamental intent.Journalism, Independent and Not - NYTimes.com
“I think they overlooked the first rule of storytelling, which is to not deceive the reader,” said Shane Snow, the co-founder of Contently, which helps brands produce media of their own. “The exposure they were seeking ended up being negative.”"
Sunday, November 02, 2014
Another communication-in-context option
"Work Chat is a feature that’s designed to increase the collaboration possibilities within the Evernote software, by allowing users to quickly share notes or entire notebooks with colleagues in order to get their feedback. You can chat with either just one person, or a group, and you can optionally sync the app with your Google Contacts, too.Evernote Rolls Out Its New “Work Chat” Feature | TechCrunch
When you start a chat with another user, they’re notified both in the app and via an email message that informs them of the chat and offers a button which, when clicked, launches Evernote."
Facebook gets out the vote
"This is the age of big data and powerful algorithms that can sort people and manipulate them in many hidden ways. Using those tools, national political campaigns, building on the Obama 2012 reelection effort, are learning how to "engineer the public" without the public's knowledge, as sociologist Zeynep Tufekci has warned. Consequently, there is a strong case for greater Facebook transparency when it comes to its political efforts and experiments. Clearly, the company is proud of the voter megaphone. After a successful test run in the Indian national elections this spring, the company announced that it would be putting the tool on the pages of users in all the major democracies holding national elections this year and that it would also deploy the tool for the European Union vote. According to Andy Stone, a spokesman for Facebook's policy team, the megaphone was seen by 24.6 million Brazilians during the first round in that nation's recent election."Facebook Wants You to Vote on Tuesday. Here's How It Messed With Your Feed in 2012. | Mother Jones