"And yet 2015 was the year open source software gained new significance, thanks to Apple and Google and Elon Musk. Now more than ever, even the most powerful tech companies and entrepreneurs are freely sharing the code underlying their latest technologies. They recognize this will accelerate not only the progress of technology as a whole, but their own progress as well. It’s altruism with self-interest. And it’s how the tech world now works.Open Source Software Went Nuclear This Year | WIRED
“This is not just a turning point, but a tipping point,” says Brandon Keepers, the head of open source at GitHub, the online service that sits at the heart of the open source universe."
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
From an open source market dynamics snapshot
Amazon.com Investor Relations: Amazon Celebrates a Record-Setting Holiday for Prime, Amazon Original Series and Amazon Devices
Check the source for some additional Amazon year-end stats
"Prime experiences record-breaking holiday season – more than three million new members worldwide joined Prime during the third week of December aloneAmazon.com Investor Relations: Press Release
Prime members made The Man in the High Castle the most watched TV season on Prime Video this holiday by 4.5x and doubled their total viewing hours of Prime Video titles, compared to 2014
Biggest holiday ever for Amazon Devices – up 2x over last year’s record-setting holiday
Over 200 million more items shipped for free with Prime this holiday season
Prime Now has busiest day ever on Christmas Eve – last order delivered at 11:59 p.m. to a customer in San Antonio, Texas"
Thursday, December 24, 2015
The plot thickens and Edward Snowden tweets "@JuniperNetworks, this is the moment to launch a #ManhattanProject to deliver the most secure appliances on Earth."
"A top-secret document dated February 2011 reveals that British spy agency GCHQ, with the knowledge and apparent cooperation of the NSA, acquired the capability to covertly exploit security vulnerabilities in 13 different models of firewalls made by Juniper Networks, a leading provider of networking and Internet security gear.NSA Helped British Spies Find Security Holes In Juniper Firewalls
The six-page document, titled “Assessment of Intelligence Opportunity – Juniper,” raises questions about whether the intelligence agencies were responsible for or culpable in the creation of security holes disclosed by Juniper last week."
From A to Z
"We know Amazon is popular. We know each year it gets more popular. But it’s not always clear what that looks like on paper for the rest of the retail industry.Amazon Accounts for Half of All Sales Growth in U.S.: Chart | Re/code
Enter the analysts at Macquarie Research, who did the hard math to lay it out. Macquarie estimates that Amazon accounts for half of all sales growth in U.S. e-commerce, meaning online retailers not named Amazon are battling for around 50 cents of every new $1 spent online. As if that weren’t enough, Amazon also accounts for about a quarter of every new $1 of growth in all of retail, including brick-and-mortar sales, too."
"Palantir specializes in so-called intelligence augmentation, or I.A., which is a way to help experts find meaningful patterns among large amounts of data. In the case of intelligence, for example, this might mean using bank records and cellphone calls to build a profile of a terrorist cell.Palantir, a Silicon Valley Start-Up, Raises Another $880 Million - The New York Times
Peter Thiel, another of Palantir’s founders as well as an investor in the company, was also an early investor in Facebook. He has described Facebook as a way to expose networks of people who want to be seen, and Palantir as a way to show networks of people who do not want to be seen."
Check the full post for more details
"“On one side, we’ve built a model of all the music we know about, that is powered by all the curatorial actions of people on Spotify adding to playlists. On the other side, we have our impression of what your music taste is. Every Monday morning, we take these two things, do a little magic filtering, and try to find things that other users have been playlisting around the music you’ve been jamming on, but that we think are either brand new to you or relatively new.”"The magic that makes Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlists so damn good - Quartz
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Public > private
"Inside big businesses, Jacob says, just about every so-called private cloud project has failed. “Private cloud, as a thing, is near to or approaching zero,” he says. Most of these projects were based on a tool called OpenStack, which aims to mimic the cloud services offered by Amazon. But according to Jacob, mimicking Amazon is too difficult, too costly, and too time-consuming for many businesses.Nobody Knew How Big a Deal the Cloud Would Be—They Do Now | WIRED
“There are a few examples. But they’re all really constrained, and it’s not the same as when you use the public cloud,” he says. “It takes a long time. It’s super-difficult. And the software that you can buy to do it isn’t very good.” So, these companies are moving onto Amazon and other public cloud services instead."
Available <= 3/32/2016
""After evaluating the market opportunity and considering the unique collaboration scenarios Surface Hub offers, we believe these are the right prices to drive the business and the category forward," according to a statement from a spokesperson.Microsoft to hike Surface Hub pricing ahead of early 2016 release | ZDNet
Microsoft officials also said last Fall the first Surface Hubs would ship starting January 1. That was a delay from the original target availability date of September 1, 2015.
The new statement is "we are still on track to ship the first Surface Hub devices to customers earlier next year." A spokesperson said the devices will begin shipping in the first calendar quarter of 2016."
Mission accomplished, if the primary goal was free press/blogosphere coverage
"Unless you have shunned the Internet since Wednesday you have surely heard about the amazing Netflix socks. They have cute designs and will pause your TV if you fall asleep in the middle of an episode. You can read hundreds of stories about them.What everyone’s missing about those Netflix socks that pause TV - The Washington Post
“Netflix socks are seriously going to change your life.” “Innovative.” “The perfect solution.” “Awesome.“
Sounds pretty great, no? Except there’s one big problem. The socks are painfully complicated to assemble, expensive and difficult to use."
Discount schedule tbd; also see Background on Tonight's Launch (SpaceX News) for some tips on how to reorient and land a 14-story rocket booster
"SpaceX will soon fire the rocket that landed on Monday in a static ground test. But Musk said the same rocket won't fly again. SpaceX has “quite a big flight manifest” with more than 12 launches scheduled for 2016, he noted, and “sometime next year we ought to aim to re-fly one of the rocket boosters.” Reuseable rockets aren’t here—yet.SpaceX Nailed the Landing. Now Do It Again, Faster - Bloomberg Business
SpaceX engineers are likely "crawling all over that thing" to inspect what sort of damage the Falcon 9 booster experienced from physical stress and corrosion and assessing how quickly it could fly, said David Wireman, co-head of the aerospace practice at consulting firm Alix Partners. Part of the business issue for SpaceX, he said, will be assuring customers that a used rocket is as reliable as a new one. "Until the reliability of that sucker is proven, I don't want to be the second [customer], and I sure don't want to be the third.""
Cloud container competition catch-up
"The database giant on Friday quietly bought an Austin, Tex., startup called StackEngine Inc. The Oracle did not disclose the terms of the deal, but the acquisition will be working in a strategically important area called the Oracle Public Cloud.Oracle Acquisition Spurs Cloud Competition - Digits - WSJ
StackEngine will give Oracle a boost in selling a new generation of cloud services based on the software known as containers, which give software developers flexibility by letting them run a several copies of an operating system on a single computer. Containers are part of a sea change in the way software developers create computer programs, offering new ways to quickly build and roll out software on large networks, said Joe Breda, a former Google engineer who is now an entrepreneur in residence at the VC firm Accel Partners."
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Excerpt from an article with speculation about a Google/Ford self-driving car joint venture
"Google has added two veteran Ford executives to its leadership team. Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally joined Google’s board of directors eight days after he retired from the automaker on July 1, 2014. Then in September, Google hired John Krafcik as CEO of the company’s Self-Driving Car Project. Krafcik, who most recently was president of TrueCar Inc., was CEO of Hyundai Motor America. He spent 14 years at Ford, including a stint as chief engineer during the development of the Ford Expedition SUV.Ford in talks with Google to build self-driving cars
Ford is scheduled to hold a press conference Jan. 5 in Las Vegas. CEO Mark Fields, product development chief Raj Nair, research and advanced engineering vice president Ken Washington, and Don Butler, executive director of connected vehicles and services, are scheduled to attend."
Nearly a billion PCs run this notoriously insecure software. Now Oracle has to clean it up. - The Washington Post
From a Java SE market momentum snapshot; tangentially, see Facebook ditches Flash video in latest blow to maligned plugin (The Guardian)
"Oracle, one of the nation's largest tech companies, is settling federal charges that it misled consumers about the security of its software, which is installed on roughly 850 million computers around the world.Nearly a billion PCs run this notoriously insecure software. Now Oracle has to clean it up. - The Washington Post
The company won't be paying a fine, and it isn't admitting to any wrongdoing or fault in its settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. But Oracle will be required to tell consumers explicitly if they have outdated, insecure copies of the software — and to help them remove it."
Perhaps there will be new employee motivation posters at SpaceX with the @JeffBezos tweet "Congrats @SpaceX on landing Falcon's suborbital booster stage. Welcome to the club!" (See the Wait But Why The No Jeff Bezos Didn’t Just Do It Blue Box explanation for details)
"Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket at its landing pad here Monday evening in its first flight since its rocket exploded six months ago.Elon Musk’s SpaceX returns to flight and pulls off dramatic, historic landing - The Washington Post
The historic landing, the first time a rocket launched a payload into orbit and then returned safely to Earth, was cheered as a sign that SpaceX, the darling of the commercial space industry, has its momentum back."
From a Facebook at Work status update
"In a sense, Facebook already knows the software works since employees have been using it internally for many years. It’s been part of the company’s secret to moving fast and scaling globally, said Mr. Codorniou. “When we feel that we have tested the product and our assumptions in as many industries and geographies as needed, we will be ready to launch,” he added."Facebook Plans to Shape Up Social Software for Work in 2016 - Digits - WSJ
Taking a stand for personal privacy and security
"“The best minds in the world cannot rewrite the laws of mathematics,” the company told the British Parliament, submitting formal comments on a proposed law that would require the company to supply a way to break into the iChat and FaceTime conversations of iPhone users.Apple Pushes Against British Talk of Softening Encryption - The New York Times
“We believe it would be wrong to weaken security for hundreds of millions of law-abiding customers so that it will also be weaker for the very few who pose a threat,” Apple wrote."
Monday, December 21, 2015
Tbd what percentage of the cord-cutters without home broadband also occasionally rely on their neighbors' and/or employers' networks...
"But hang on — what if you could eliminate that home Internet subscription entirely and still watch your shows online? All of a sudden you get rid of a bill of, say, $100 or more per month (this amount is fairly close to what my household pays for standalone Internet service here in Washington). Would you do it?42 percent of cord-cutters don’t even subscribe to home broadband - The Washington Post
It appears that some already are. Only 6 in 10 cord-cutters still subscribe to home broadband service — such as DSL, cable Internet or fiber — at all, the Pew survey shows. The rest rely primarily on their cellular devices to stream shows and movies."
Microsoft acquires Ray Ozzie's team communication startup Talko, will integrate tech into Skype | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Jordan Novet
Congrats to Ray Ozzie and the rest of the Talko team
"Microsoft today announced that it has acquired technology from Talko, a startup that built a mobile-friendly team communication app. Talko will be shutting down in the next several months, according to a note on the startup’s website, and seeing its technology integrated into existing Microsoft apps.Microsoft acquires Ray Ozzie's team communication startup Talko, will integrate tech into Skype | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Jordan Novet
“Today we’re announcing that Talko’s been acquired by Microsoft to help fuel future innovation in Skype and Skype for Business,” the note from the Talko team says.
“As part of the Skype team, we’ll leverage Talko’s technology and the many things we’ve learned during its design and development. We’ll strive to deliver the best of our product’s innovations far more broadly than on our current path.”"
On a related note, see Hillary Clinton on encryption: 'maybe the back door isn't the right door' (The Verge)
"Ronald Prins, founder and CTO of Fox-IT, a Dutch security firm, said the patch released by Juniper provides hints about where the master password backdoor is located in the software. By reverse-engineering the firmware on a Juniper firewall, analysts at his company found the password in just six hours.Secret Code Found in Juniper's Firewalls Shows Risk of Government Backdoors | WIRED
“Once you know there is a backdoor there, … the patch [Juniper released] gives away where to look for [the backdoor] … which you can use to log into every [Juniper] device using the Screen OS software,” he told WIRED. “We are now capable of logging into all vulnerable firewalls in the same way as the actors [who installed the backdoor].”"
Microsoft acquires Metanautix to help customers connect data for business insights - The Official Microsoft Blog
Check Internet Archive for more details; the Metanautix site has been replaced with links to 2 blog posts announcing the deal
"Companies like Shutterfly rely on Metanautix for marketing campaign analytics to find the most effective ways to acquire and keep customers. With Metanautix technology, IT teams can connect a diversity of their company’s information across private and public clouds, without having to go through the costly and complex process of moving data into a centralized system. The solution can integrate data across traditional data warehouses like SQL Server, Oracle and Teradata; open source NoSQL databases such as MongoDB and Cassandra; as well as business systems like Salesforce.com and wide array of other cloud and on-premises data stores. Key to Metanautix’ approach is making a wide variety of data query-able by SQL, the most widely used data query language – at speed and high scale."Microsoft acquires Metanautix to help customers connect data for business insights - The Official Microsoft Blog
Excerpt from an extensive Apple-focused 60 Minutes segment
"“I don’t believe that the trade-off here is privacy versus national security,” Cook said in the interview. “I think that’s an overly simplistic view. We’re America. We should have both.”Apple CEO Tim Cook Defends Encryption on ’60 Minutes’ | Re/code
Cook said modern smartphones such as the iPhone contain sensitive information: Personal health details, financial data, business secrets and intimate conversations with family, friends or co-workers. The only way to ensure this information is kept secure is to encrypt it, turning personal data into indecipherable garble that can only be read with the right key — a key that Apple doesn’t hold.
Apple will comply with warrants seeking specific information, Cook said, but there’s only so much it can provide."
A Good trick
"The sharp rise in software and services sales was partly the result of BlackBerry’s acquisition of a former rival, Good Technology. Like BlackBerry under Mr. Chen, Good’s focus was on software systems that allow companies and governments to manage data on employees’ mobile phones and tablets.BlackBerry Reports a Jump in Software Sales - The New York Times
Mr. Chen repeatedly declined to say how much of the increase in the company’s software sales came from Good during the quarter. But he did say that revenue from licenses for software developed by BlackBerry rose 43 percent. Software sales during the quarter were $154 million."
Friday, December 18, 2015
Check the full post for some 2016 wearable predictions
"One of the reasons Fitbit has nearly 70% market share is because it’s the wearable tech equivalent of the old adage, “you’ll never get fired for choosing IBM” (or an iPhone). There are at least 25 fitness oriented wearable devices that do almost exactly the same thing. With Fitbit, you’re buying into the ecosystem and what all your friends have. Withings and Misfit make beautiful looking devices but are not as strong technically. Garmin and Polar are the athletes’ products. With Pebble, you’re rooting for the ‘startup’. If you buy the Apple Watch, it shouldn’t be because of its fit-tech capabilities. Android-based wearables are like most Android phones: lots of choice and a little cheaper, but generally lacking in hardware refinement and software polish. You want to root for the Microsoft Band 2, which is a very competitive product, but falls just short of the mark in a few key areas."What’s Next for Fitness Wearables? | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
Apple assigns App Store oversight to Phil Schiller in apparent nod to developer issues (Apple Insider)
For more Apple org updates, see Apple Makes Shifts in Senior Management (NYT)
"Apple's decision to split its App Stores out of Eddy Cue's iTunes and iCloud oversight and instead assign them to Phil Schiller, its head of worldwide marketing, appears to based on an effort to differentiate platform management of developers' interactive apps from the reselling of static content from media holders, and to handle each appropriately."Apple assigns App Store oversight to Phil Schiller in apparent nod to developer issues
"The day after a Brazilian judge ordered the suspension of the Whatsapp cellphone chat and voice service for 48 hours, cutting off millions of users from one of the country’s most popular communication services, another judge overturned the ban.Brazil’s ban on WhatsApp is lifted less than 24 hours after it began - The Washington Post
Brazilians had joined in black humor and outrage and tech giants expressed worry over the state's heavy hand Thursday after a judge banned the service for 48 hours. It is so widely used in Brazil that people often ask for "your WhatsApp" rather than your number. The ban began at midnight Wednesday."
All the news that's fit to serve -- check the full post for details about how the NYT is building microservices in Go
"At The New York Times, our development teams have been adopting the Go programming language over the last three years to build better back-end services. In the past I’ve written about using Go for Elastic MapReduce streaming. I’ve also talked about using Go at GothamGo for news analysis and to improve our email and alert systems at the Golang NYC Meetup. We use Go for a wide variety of tasks, but the most common use throughout the company is for building JSON APIs.Introducing Gizmo - The New York Times
When we first began building APIs with Go, we didn’t use any frameworks or shared interfaces. This meant that they varied from team to team and project to project with regard to structure, naming conventions and third-party tools. As we started building more and more APIs, the pains of microservices started to become apparent."
If that's too time-consuming, check Amazon Beefs Up Gift Receipt Service With Automated Thank You Notes (International Business Times) for details on scanning QR codes to generate thank-you notes
"Receiving a physical, handwritten thank-you note or letter these days feels special, but it also requires some work. “You have to assemble all the pieces,” Mr. Caberwal said — including paper, a pen, the recipient’s address, an envelope and a stamp — and then the note has to be written and mailed, all of which is time-consuming. He wanted to enable people to do that more easily, by harnessing technology to create a product that still felt very personal and worth keeping."A Handwritten Card, Signed and Sealed by the Latest Technology - The New York Times
Bernie Sanders Campaign Is Disciplined for Breaching Hillary Clinton Data - First Draft. Political News, Now. - The New York Times
A political data integrity case study
"The breach occurred after a software problem at the technology company NGP VAN, which gives campaigns access to the voter data. The problem inadvertently made proprietary voter data of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign visible to others, according to party committee officials.Bernie Sanders Campaign Is Disciplined for Breaching Hillary Clinton Data - First Draft. Political News, Now. - The New York Times
The Sanders campaign said that it had fired a staff member who breached Mrs. Clinton’s data. But according to three people with direct knowledge of the breach, there were four user accounts associated with the Sanders campaign that ran searches while the security of Mrs. Clinton’s data was compromised."
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Also see Google ‘Gravely Disappointed’ With California’s New Rules for Self-Driving Cars (Re/code)
"When Google tapped John Krafcik, an auto industry vet, to lead its self-driving car unit, the Internet giant said the project is not a separate Alphabet company but could be one “at some point in the future.” That point is next year, according to a report this morning from Bloomberg, which claimed Google is planning to deploy driverless fleets as rides for hire.Google Set to Turn Self-Driving Car Unit Into Alphabet Company | Re/code
We’ve heard from a few sources that Google is toying around with this service internally, but it’s unclear when it will roll out or how it will look. Google isn’t commenting. It has tried to dampen* earlier reports of a standoff with Uber, in which Google Ventures owns a stake."
"Amazon.com Inc. is increasing its share of U.S. online spending during the holiday season, even as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and other rivals seek to attract consumers with promotional sales and free deliveries.Amazon Is Capturing Bigger Slice of U.S. Online Holiday Spending - Bloomberg Business
Amazon took in 39.3 percent of e-commerce spending from Nov. 1 through Dec. 6, up from 37.9 percent during the same period a year earlier, according to Slice Intelligence, which gathers data through e-mail receipts of 3.5 million shoppers. You’d have to combine the Web sales of the next 21 retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy Co., Macy’s Inc. Home Depot Inc., Nordstrom Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp., to match Amazon’s share, Slice data shows."
Also see The message is the medium (The Economist, 3/2015)
"Taking another page from its counterparts in Asia, Facebook will add a feature for booking a ride through its messaging application. Users of Facebook Messenger in the U.S. will be able to summon an Uber car with a few taps starting on Wednesday.Facebook Messenger Lets You Book an Uber - Bloomberg Business
The new feature for Messenger, which has more than 700 million users globally, will allow users to tap on a street address in a message and summon a ride. After booking, the app will let Uber customers easily share their estimated arrival times or coordinate splitting the fare with friends through Messenger. The feature is expected to be made available in other countries outside the U.S. later."
"Google released the top search terms of the year Wednesday morning, accompanied by a video stitched together from inspiring clips: France’s response to the Paris attacks, refugees navigating their way to safe haven and an adult lion bathing its cub, all of it narrated by Caitlyn Jenner’s speech at the ESPY Awards calling for harmony and acceptance of one another’s differences.Gossip and Scandal Lead Google’s Top Searches in 2015 - The New York Times
But the search giant’s lists emphasized that Americans who went online were less interested in being uplifted than being distracted, preferably by something scandalous."
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
"Padmasree Warrior, the former chief technology and strategy officer of networking giant Cisco Systems has landed a new job as the CEO of the U.S. division of NextEV, a China-based electric vehicle company and potential rival to Tesla Motors.Former Cisco Exec Warrior Tapped to Run U.S. Operations of NextEV | Re/code
NextEV, based in Shanghai, has attracted about a half-billion dollars in investments from the likes of venture capital firm Sequoia Ventures, Tencent Holdings and Hillhouse Capital, a China-based investment firm that has also backed Uber. NextEV has said that sometime in 2016 it plans to roll out a car that will match Tesla’s “Ludicrous” speed mode."
Similar extensions are available if you want to, e.g., avoid all references to Donald Trump
"Now that the premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is done, we're hitting peak spoiler danger: there are enough people out there who have seen the movie now who could potentially ruin it all for the rest of us before opening night.
Luckily, there are some tools out there for those who want to avoid an onslaught of spoilers. There are at least two extensions for Google's Chrome browser that will help you stay away from spoilers, by blocking out any webpage that mentions the movie's title."How to avoid Star Wars spoilers, in just three clicks - The Washington Post:
See this page to try the pilot Facebook Professional Services and Is “Facebook Professional Services” Facebook’s Stealth Project To Beat Yelp? (Search Engine Land) for an assessment
"Yelp Inc. slipped the most in more than four months after Facebook Inc. started testing a new part of its site for searching and rating local businesses.Yelp Drops on Facebook Site to Find Professional Services - Bloomberg Business
Facebook’s feature lets people search in a local area for services, such as nail salons and take-out restaurants. Users then see ranked results, with reviews, star ratings and contact information for the business -- an area where San Francisco-based Yelp has dominated. Facebook has quietly been building up the information through partnerships with businesses and data companies."
To summarize the rest of the review: consider Dell XPS*
"Best for the Cheapskate: Toshiba Chromebook 2The Best Windows Laptop You Can Buy Right Now - WSJ
If you want something under $400, the best Windows laptop you can buy is a...Chromebook. Really, the $400-and-under Windows laptops I tested can leave you in search of antidepressants.
The keyboard on the $200 Lenovo IdeaPad 100S flexes more than Arnold Schwarzenegger and often decides to take a time-out when you’re scrolling down a webpage. The $250 Asus EeeBook X205TA felt better but the cramped keyboard and trackpad can induce carpal tunnel just from looking at them."
Office 365 Groups already overlaps with Slack, and has a similar connector model; I'll be surprised if Facebook at Work doesn't also offer similar capabilities. Also see Slack Aims to Become a Control Panel for Your Job (NYT) for more on Slack's platform plans.
"Some observers view such rivals as a threat to the messaging company. “If I were Slack, I’d be worried about Microsoft and Google,” said Gartner Principal Research Analyst Adam Preset. “Either of those vendors has so much infrastructure and talented developers that if they wanted to build something Slack-like, they could do it,” he said.Slack Raises $80 Million Fund to Support Platform Strategy - Digits - WSJ
Although Microsoft in 2012 acquired a similar messaging company, Yammer Inc., for $1.2 billion, Slack has paid more attention to how its software works on mobile devices, Mr. Preset said.
Mr. Butterfield wants to get Slack as widely used as possible, integrating it with business software tools such as Zendesk and Github and creating apps that will make Slack more appealing. Software services for businesses have proliferated so much that there’s “no place where it all comes together,” he said."
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Available now -- you need to sign up for the Sonos beta program and update your Sonos apps, but the set-up was simple and it's working great :)
"Sonos users, rejoice! The speaker company just announced that an update adding Apple Music is coming on December 15 in beta. All the flagship Apple Music features will be available directly from the Sonos app.Apple Music Is Coming To Sonos On December 15 | TechCrunch
As a reminder, Apple first hinted at Sonos support back in June. It took a few months, but Apple Music is coming for no extra charge for Sonos and Apple Music users."
Also see VMware Walks Away From Virtustream Joint Venture With EMC (Re/code)
"The sale could be a key component of Dell’s deal to buy EMC. Selling Perot would help raise cash Dell needs to pay down debt after it closes on its proposed acquisition of the storage company EMC. Dell and its co-owner, the private equity firm Silver Lake, offered a combination of cash and tracking shares to buy out EMC in a deal valued at $67 billion when it was announced on Oct. 12. But there are still significant issues with the deal, given the complexity of the proposed deal structure. In addition to taking on a combined $50 billion in debt, Dell and Silver Lake have proposed to issue tracking shares linked to VMware, a software subsidiary of EMC, to help finance the EMC purchase. A 60-day go-shop period during which EMC sought offers superior to Dell’s expired early Saturday morning."Dell Looks to Sell Perot Systems for More than $5 Billion | Re/code
tbd if Samsung will still be in the smartphone business by the time this case is finalized
"The legal framework for design patents, according to Samsung, some other major technology companies and legal experts, is largely shaped by a 19th-century law intended to protect the designs of carpets, fireplace grates and ornamental spoons.Samsung’s Patent Loss to Apple Is Appealed to Supreme Court - The New York Times
Back then, the design was the heart of such products, so seizing most or all of the gains of a copycat — known as the “total profit rule” — was justified. But today, a complex product like a modern smartphone is a dense bundle of intellectual property with more than 100,000 patents conceivably laying claim to some small aspect of the phone."
No advertising campaigns needed for ad blockers...
"The intricacies of the Internet advertising market don’t typically make for good pop culture.Ad Blocking Has Penetrated Pop Culture - WSJ
But in recent weeks, conversation about the rise of online ad-blocking software — one of the digital media industry’s biggest worries — has spilled into the mainstream. The trend has been satirized by TV comedy show “South Park”, mentioned on Howard Stern’s popular radio program, and featured in multiple news programs and morning shows including NBC’s “Today” show.
Ad blocking has reached the big time."
Monday, December 14, 2015
Check here for Wolfram Development Platform plan options
"His Wolfram Language is similarly a tool for what he calls “knowledge-based programming.” And Mr. Wolfram wants to make his technology and his software philosophy available to far more people, including newcomers to computing, like students and children. So he has decided to make a version of the Wolfram Language and development tools available as a free cloud service. To help, he also has published a book, “An Elementary Introduction to the Wolfram Language,” which is free to read online and can be ordered in a print version from the Wolfram web site ($14.96) or Amazon ($16.70).Stephen Wolfram Aims to Democratize His Software - The New York Times
In an interview, Mr. Wolfram described the moves as steps toward the realization of his original vision for his company, Wolfram Research, which he founded in 1987. “My big goal is make what can be done with computation as broadly accessible as possible,” he said."
Final paragraph from an extensive review
"If I were going to go back to using a battery case, there’s no question in my mind that I’d go with Apple’s. The only downside to it compared to Mophie’s (and the others — but I think Mophie is clearly the leader of the pack) is that it looks funny from the back. But to my eyes it doesn’t look that funny, and though third-party cases don’t look weird, they don’t look (or feel) good. In every other way, Apple’s Smart Battery Case wins: it’s all Lightning, so any Lightning peripherals you have will work, and there’s no need to pack a grody micro USB cable; it supplies more than enough additional power to get you through an active day; its unibody design makes it much easier to insert and remove the phone; and it feels much better in hand."Daring Fireball: The Curious Case of the Curious Case
The Force will be with you. Always.
"What Holbeck is saying, for those of you who don’t speak Wall Street, is that Disney probably won’t miss that $4 billion one bit. He notes that $1 placed in an S&P indexed fund—a market benchmark—in October 2012 would be worth about $1.50 today. But Disney stock has more than doubled since the Star Wars acquisition, which means it’s outpacing a growing market by an additional 50 percent.Star Wars' $4 Billion Price Tag Was the Deal of the Century | WIRED
Some of the reasons are boring and business-y: Natural synergies, consolidation of corporate overhead, etc. But the hyperspeed factor here is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Quite simply, George Lucas was not going to do new Star Wars movies. It was like Lucasfilm was sitting on top of the world’s richest oil deposit, but didn’t want to drill.
Disney tapped that well. And it’s a gusher."
Check the full post for more 2015 IPO stats
"“We haven’t seen so few tech IPOs since the 2008-09 U.S. financial crisis,” notes Kathleen Smith, principal at IPO ETF Manager, Renaissance Capital. “Biotech has taken over where tech left off.”Worst Year For Tech IPOs Since 2009 | TechCrunch
The performance of the tech IPOs has also been subpar. Half of the tech companies that have gone public this year are trading below their IPO price, including Etsy which fell 41%. And both Box and Square, went public at market caps that were beneath the valuation of their last private rounds.
Often seen as a bellwether for upcoming IPOs, investors will be watching this year’s struggling tech stocks as an indication of things to come."
Intro paragraph from a Steven Levy interview
"As if the field of AI wasn’t competitive enough — with giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and even car companies like Toyota scrambling to hire researchers — there’s now a new entry, with a twist. It’s a non-profit venture called OpenAI, announced today, that vows to make its results public and its patents royalty-free, all to ensure that the scary prospect of computers surpassing human intelligence may not be the dystopia that some people fear. Funding comes from a group of tech luminaries including Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel, Jessica Livingston and Amazon Web Services. They have collectively pledged more than a billion dollars to be paid over a long time period. The co-chairs are Musk and Sam Altman, the CEO of Y Combinator, whose research group is also a funder. (As is Altman himself.)"How Elon Musk and Y Combinator Plan to Stop Computers From Taking Over — Backchannel — Medium
A stark Internet retail snapshot; tangentially, see Sad State of Retail Apps (Tech.pinions)
"Consumers were asked how often they search for products or check prices on Amazon when they shop online. Some 24 percent of online shoppers said “always,” and another 25 percent said “most of the time.” That means Amazon has managed to lure some 49 percent of online shoppers to consistently consider their site. (And still another 26 percent said they “sometimes” search Amazon.)This poll captures Amazon’s staggeringly big role in online shopping - The Washington Post
This underscores the enormous challenge that traditional retailers face as they try to pull down more online sales. They have to win the minds of a shopper who is habitually — almost on autopilot, really — going to Amazon. And so while chains such as Walmart and Target are spending billions of dollars to create websites that are more attractive and easier to use, and are overhauling their supply chains to offer speedier and more reliable shipping, all those innovations simply won’t matter if they can’t get shoppers to reflexively think of them in the same way shoppers already think of Amazon."
From a VR/AR market reality check
"Why are virtual reality’s acolytes so certain about its imminence? The promise of virtual reality has been a staple of science-fiction dreams for decades. But until recently, the headsets were primitive and cost tens of thousands of dollars. The explosion of mobile devices has sharply reduced the price of many of the components that are essential to virtual reality headsets, including high-quality screens and motion sensors, as well as improving the experiences. “There really is a transformational moment for people when they put these things on,” said Tony Garcia, chief revenue officer at Unity Technologies, a company that supplies a key software component called a game engine to virtual reality developers. “It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time.”"In Virtual Reality Headsets, Investors Glimpse the Future - The New York Times
Friday, December 11, 2015
Also see The Pixel C was probably never supposed to run Android (Ars Technica)
"It’s a certainly a different strategy than what you typically get from Apple. Whereas an Apple release is touted as metaphysical perfection, the Pixel C is more of a showcase for what the future could look like. But it needs to get here fast in order for Android to gain more traction in the tablet market.Pixel C team promises split-screen multitasking, better tablet apps during Reddit AMA | PCWorld
The team also said the firmware is open source, and the bootloader can be unlocked. On the hardware front, DisplayPort support over USB Type-C is coming, but there’s no timeframe."
Coincidentally, see Slack Expects Enterprise Version To Go To Market in Early 2016 (WSJ)
"In going public on Thursday, Atlassian, a maker of business collaboration and development software, did two things many other market debutantes have been unable to do this year.Atlassian Shares Surge on Trading Debut - The New York Times
It priced its initial public offering above its expected range, and its shares enjoyed a healthy pop in their trading debut.
Shares in Atlassian were $27.22 in late-afternoon trading on Thursday, up nearly 30 percent above their offer price of $21. That valued the software maker at nearly $5.7 billion."
A very generous year in the AI community; also see Silicon Valley Is in a War Over Artificial Intelligence and Facebook Just Made Its Boldest Move Yet (Re/code)
"Facebook Inc.’s use of artificial intelligence, which ranges from tools for image recognition to the filtering of the news feeds for its social network, demands special computing infrastructure. The company recently began building custom servers for its artificial intelligence workload and Thursday announced it would release the designs for that powerful hardware to the world -- for free.Facebook to Publish Designs for `Big Sur' AI Computer Hardware - Bloomberg Business
The company said the plan to open-source the blueprints of the servers -- called “Big Sur” -- would help other companies and researchers benefit from the incessant tweaking of Facebook’s developers. This follows Alphabet Inc.-subsidiary Google’s release last month of a software tool for building AI systems named TensorFlow. Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines Corp., and Samsung Electronics Co. also have released their own software tools."
Aiming to reset Moore's Law; also see Why Google’s new quantum computer could launch an artificial intelligence arms race (The Washington Post)
"In a blog post, Google also acknowledged that some classic computing techniques can solve the problem in its test “faster than the current quantum hardware,” but said it’s working on improvements.Google’s Tough Search: A Quantum Leap in Computing Power - Digits - WSJ
Google also described the limitations of the 2X at press conference earlier this week. It can only be designed to perform a single, specific task; it needs near-absolute zero temperatures to work and was at risk of blowing up when it had to be cleaned recently.
However, Google’s quantum researchers — and other experts — think this type of quantum computer could solve complex problems with many variables that conventional machines can’t handle. Dr. Farhi said it could help airlines cut delays by picking the best locations for aircraft and crew.
Google thinks this type of quantum computing will first be useful in machine learning, a field of artificial intelligence that uses data to teach computers to be smarter."
Also see The Future of Television: More Choices and Greater Quality (WSJ)
"The media industry may be in for a rude awakening. Television companies have been trying to reassure investors lately that the modest decline in pay-TV subscribers they’ve seen over the past year will continue at the same manageable pace.Cord-Cutting Is Accelerating - WSJ
But new data out Thursday from eMarketer shows that cord-cutting is accelerating, driven by a rapidly expanding panoply of digital video services.
The number of pay-TV households will fall at an accelerating rate for at least the next four years, reaching a 1.4% decline in 2019, eMarketer estimates. By that year, eMarketer estimates that almost 23% of U.S. households won’t pay for traditional TV."
Tangentially, see Chomsky Was Right, NYU Researchers Find: We Do Have a “Grammar” in Our Head (NYU News)
"The researchers compared the capabilities of their Bayesian approach and other programming models using five separate learning tasks that involved a set of characters from a research data set known as Omniglot, which includes 1,623 handwritten character sets from 50 languages. Both images and pen strokes needed to create characters were captured.A Learning Advance in Artificial Intelligence Rivals Human Abilities - The New York Times
“With all the progress in machine learning, it’s amazing what you can do with lots of data and faster computers,” said Joshua B. Tenenbaum, a professor of cognitive science and computation at M.I.T. and one of the authors of the Science paper. “But when you look at children, it’s amazing what they can learn from very little data. Some comes from prior knowledge and some is built into our brain.”"
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Check the full post for more details on stories via slow connections
"You can now also comment on stories you see when you don't have an internet connection. While the ability to like and share posts when you're offline has been available for some time, now you can comment on posts and the comment will be posted whenever you next have a connection.Continuing to build News Feed for all types of connections | Engineering Blog | Facebook Code
For example, if you see a post about a friend's engagement when you're not connected to the internet, you can compose a congratulatory comment, and it will appear on his or her post when you're back online.
These changes will help anyone who is on a poor internet connection — even those whose network connectivity is generally good but who have intermittent connections in places like subways and tunnels, or at large events. None of these changes affect News Feed ranking. We are simply showing you the most relevant content as efficiently as possible. We'll be testing and rolling this out over time to gather feedback."
Tangentially, see Apple Pay is showing signs that it could be a flop (Business Insider)
"Payments expert Brian Roemmele, who recently released the PayFinders app which helps consumers locate Apple Pay compatible merchants, believes Walmart Pay could deal a mortal blow to MCX’s ambitions: “MCX was conceived to allow like minded merchants to create an alternative and less costly payment system,” he said. “It began to erode as Apple Pay began to appear inevitable. With the release of Walmart Pay, it is clear that MCX and CurrentC will likely either not be released or be lost in the noise of other proprietary systems.” In particular, Roemmele noted that Target will likely now move ahead with a full Apple Pay and Android Pay implementation of its own Red Card in the near future."Walmart Drops An Atomic Bomb On Its Apple Pay Competitor - Forbes
Intro paragraphs from an extensive and insightful profile
"Ada Lovelace was born 200 years ago today. To some she is a great hero in the history of computing; to others an overestimated minor figure. I’ve been curious for a long time what the real story is. And in preparation for her bicentennial, I decided to try to solve what for me has always been the “mystery of Ada”.Untangling the Tale of Ada Lovelace—Stephen Wolfram Blog
It was much harder than I expected. Historians disagree. The personalities in the story are hard to read. The technology is difficult to understand. The whole story is entwined with the customs of 19th-century British high society. And there’s a surprising amount of misinformation and misinterpretation out there.
But after quite a bit of research—including going to see many original documents—I feel like I’ve finally gotten to know Ada Lovelace, and gotten a grasp on her story. In some ways it’s an ennobling and inspiring story; in some ways it’s frustrating and tragic.
It’s a complex story, and to understand it, we’ll have to start by going over quite a lot of facts and narrative."
Facebook at Work's pitch to enterprises is unmatched: 'There's no training required' | VentureBeat | Social | by Ken Yeung
A Facebook at Work snapshot, via @MikeGotta
"While much of the talk about Facebook has been around its social network and messaging services, there’s another growing segment that the company is eager to talk about: Facebook at Work. The company has always stuck to its mission of connecting people, and so far it’s been successful, helping more than 1.55 billion people do just that every month. But can Facebook succeed in enterprise software?Facebook at Work's pitch to enterprises is unmatched: 'There's no training required' | VentureBeat | Social | by Ken Yeung
There are many companies that want to be the de facto social network for the workplace, including Microsoft’s Yammer, Salesforce Chatter, VMware’s Socialcast, Jive, and, to a certain degree, Slack. But Facebook is hoping it has an advantage that nobody can beat: the incredible familiarity that people have with its platform. Because Facebook at Work offers users the same experience they’d have on Facebook as an individual, it lacks the learning curve that other services may have."
Behold a unicorn that has been profitable for the last decade
"Reuters’ Heather Somerville says Atlassian’s IPO could open the market for more unicorn tech IPOs, and the Wall Street Journal’s Telis Demos cites analysts and investors who largely describe Atlassian as a rarity in a weak software IPO market that could have stayed private if it wanted to.Atlassian IPO Has Silicon Valley Talking | Re/code
Benchmark Capital general partner Bill Gurley has said that the proliferation of billion-dollar startups is a sign of a “speculative and unsustainable” period in Silicon Valley, and wants these companies to test their mettle in the public market. Gurley, who never misses an opportunity to call unicorns overvalued, tweeted out the Reuters piece, adding, “All profitable unicorns, head to the exit! Oh wait … are there others?”"
Acquirer of last resort? Also see Meet the Woman Trying to Make Verizon More Than Just a Dumb Pipe (Q&A) (Re/code)
"What makes a Verizon-Yahoo deal more likely is that other carriers might have less appetite for a big Yahoo acquisition. Sprint Corp., without backing from majority owner SoftBank Group Corp. is too cash-strapped to pursue a deal. T-Mobile US Inc. has been critical of other carriers’ moves into media and is focused more on the business of delivering music and video. AT&T Inc. just purchased DirecTV for $48.5 billion and is working on integrating the two companies.The Rationale Behind Verizon's Interest in Yahoo's Web Business - Bloomberg Business
Yahoo, plus AOL and an established Web-advertising business, would go a long way toward helping the wireless carrier compete with other tech giants, according to Hunter Newby, CEO of Allied Fiber, a closely-held data network company.
"Verizon wants to compete with Google and Facebook, which are probably the biggest personal-data collection machines in the world," Newby said."
Wednesday, December 09, 2015
Check the source post for details and links
"I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to write another book. My last book—A New Kind of Science—took me more than a decade of intensely focused work, and is the largest personal project I’ve ever done.I Wrote a Book—To Teach the Wolfram Language—Stephen Wolfram Blog
But a little while ago, I realized there was another book I had to write: a book that would introduce people with no knowledge of programming to the Wolfram Language and the kind of computational thinking it allows.
The result is An Elementary Introduction to the Wolfram Language, published today in print, free on the web, etc."
Excerpt from an extensive Pixel C review; it ends with "This tablet’s entire reason for existing—to run Android—is also the worst thing about it."
"Even on paper, the Pixel C doesn't seem like a great idea. The company keeps iterating on hardware for an iPad competitor, but hardware was never really an Android tablet's big problem. The problem has always been software—mainly, the lack of tablet apps and the lack of an OS that really takes advantage of a big screen aren't fixed by new hardware. While we've seen hints of a split screen mode that would greatly help things, it's not present here. That makes the Pixel C tough to recommend when iOS and Windows are both much more capable on large screens."Pixel C review—New hardware ignores an Android tablet’s core problem: software | Ars Technica
A very high-stakes poker game; tangentially, see Amazon offers subscriptions to Showtime, Starz and more through its Prime service (The Washington Post)
"Apple Inc. has suspended plans to offer a live Internet-based television service and is instead focusing on being a platform for media companies to sell directly to customers through its App Store, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.Apple Said to Suspend Effort to Develop Live TV Service - Bloomberg Business
While Apple isn’t giving up entirely on releasing a live-TV service, its plan to sell a package of 14 or so channels for $30 to $40 a month has run into resistance from media companies that want more money for their programming, said the person, who asked not to be named discussing a prospective product.
CBS Corp. Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves said at a conference earlier Tuesday that Apple had put its live TV plans “on hold.”"
Please come to Boston before my next FiOS contract renewal...
"Wall Street doesn’t expect strong financial performance from the fiber business because of the high costs of building networks from scratch. Evercore ISI analysts estimated recently that Fiber is worth $305 million, versus a total value for the main Google search business of about $450 billion.Google Fiber Eyes Its Two Largest-Ever Targets: Los Angeles and Chicago - Digits - WSJ
However, Google Fiber’s strategic value is higher. By announcing plans to build Internet service that is considerably faster than most existing services in the U.S., Google encourages other communications companies to upgrade their Internet services or lower prices. That increases the chances more people will get online more often and use Google’s other web services, such as Search, that make more money.
“It’s a smart play from Google to offer consumers an alternative service,” said Michael Nathanson, an analyst at communications research firm MoffettNathanson. “It’s not a very profitable endeavor but keeps the competition in line.”"
From a review of Apple's first iPhone case + external battery + case-compensating antenna
"After five days of living with the Smart Battery Case wrapped around my iPhone, I no longer feel so powerless. Even better, Apple fixes many of the issues I’ve had with cases over the years. It uses the same Lightning cable as the iPhone to charge, and it tells you how much power is remaining right on the phone’s screen. Besides, the case doesn’t feel like the stuff plastic forks are made of.Apple Smart Battery Case Review: iPhone Battery Life Nearly Doubled - WSJ
There’s just one thing to consider before you buy: With a third-party case, you can get twice as much power for half the cost."
Also see Verizon CEO: Sure, we'd take a look at Yahoo 'because it's so hot' (Business Insider)
"Yahoo will abandon plans to spin off its $31 billion stake in Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce company, people briefed on the matter said on Tuesday.Yahoo Is Said to End Plan to Spin Off Alibaba Stake - The New York Times
Instead, Yahoo will consider other options, including possibly selling its core Internet operations, which would leave its Alibaba stake as its primary asset. The company’s stake in Yahoo Japan may also be spun off, the people said.
An announcement may come as soon as Wednesday."
What Bill Gates has been up to lately, while not "closing up" the Internet
"The June tête-à-tête helped accelerate a sequence of events that led to one of the biggest public-private partnerships to tackle climate change, unveiled at the conference. Mr. Gates, who made billions from Microsoft before remaking himself as a philanthropist, was a linchpin of the effort, acting as an envoy between the worlds of business and policy.Bill Gates Takes On Climate Change With Nudges and a Powerful Rolodex - The New York Times
His role in sealing the deal offers a peek into how the inner circles of governments and industry intersect. It also underscores how a handful of the world’s wealthiest people can stand with heads of state to spotlight a social, economic and policy issue on the global stage. For Mr. Gates, the world’s richest person and co-chairman of the biggest private foundation, it is another sign of how his vast foreign aid operation and status as a technology icon have turned him into a uniquely influential global diplomat."
John Markoff explains Internet architecture (and related politics) to Donald Trump
"Of course, Mr. Trump was probably not asking Mr. Gates to shut down the Internet, but looking for some way to deny it to the Islamic State and its allies as a propaganda and communications tool.Why Donald Trump's Call to 'Close Up' the Internet Is Science Fiction - The New York Times
Mr. Trump’s suggestion touches upon a long-running debate regarding the Internet and censorship. Instead of Bill Gates, he might receive better advice from Li Keqiang, the prime minister of China, which has put a great deal of energy into “closing up” the Internet, including barring electronic distribution of The New York Times."
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
Later in the article: "Without a decent selection of true tablet software, especially for productivity, it's just an oversized phone."
"While the Pixel C Android tablet shows flashes of inspiration — especially in its solid but flexible optional keyboard — and has sturdy aluminum build quality throughout, it's also a bit bulky and balky.
But the worst part about this device, which starts at $499 for the tablet alone, is that Google has made no discernible effort to create software to match the screen real estate afforded by the first tablet it has designed and built itself. It has forfeited the big advantage its rival Apple has traded on for decades: the ability to blend your own hardware and software to provide a superior user experience.
And that, along with some hardware issues and complexity, makes the Pixel C a sub-optimal tablet I can't recommend."Mossberg: Google should build hardware — but not like this | The Verge
An impressive turn-around
"According to an Associated Press report, Apple says Apple Maps logs more than 5 billion Maps-related requests each week, a number helped along by ongoing efforts to squash bugs, fix incorrect data points and add new features. The turnaround is as much a testament to Apple's commitment to product as it is to the power of unbridled financial investment.Apple Maps used 3x more often than Google Maps on iOS, logs 5B requests per week
When Apple Maps first launched in 2012, public response was tepid at best, with many consumers pointing out data errors, 3D rendering issues, inaccurate directions and more. The situation devolved to the point where CEO Tim Cook was forced to apologize in a public letter, while the debacle reportedly factored into the ousting of former iOS chief Scott Forstall. Apple spent the next three years addressing those problems, while at the same time adding features to better compete with established services like Google Maps.
"We are fast learners and we are fast at fixing things," said Greg "Joz" Joswiak, Apple vice president of iPhone, iPod, and iOS Product marketing. "We learned the maps business incredibly fast.""
A free resource for people seeking to learn about database topics
"Readings in Database Systems (commonly known as the "Red Book") has offered readers an opinionated take on both classic and cutting-edge research in the field of data management since 1988. Here, we present the Fifth Edition of the Red Book — the first in over ten years."Readings in Database Systems, 5th Edition
This would likely be a very successful Trump fund-raiser
"Bezos turned to Twitter to offer his response, which humorously suggested sending Trump into space.
Finally trashed by @realDonaldTrump. Will still reserve him a seat on the Blue Origin rocket. #sendDonaldtospace https://t.co/9OypFoxZk3Dear Donald Trump: The Washington Post Is Not a Tax Dodge for Amazon | Re/code
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 7, 2015"
Signs of the times
"Distracted walking is most common among millennials aged 18 to 34, but women 55 and older are most likely to suffer serious injuries, including broken bones, according to a 2013 study in Accident Analysis & Prevention. Visits to emergency rooms for injuries involving distracted pedestrians on cellphones more than doubled between 2004 and 2010 and continues to grow. Among more than 1,000 people hospitalized after texting while walking, injuries included a shattered pelvis and injuries to the back, head and neck.Distracted Walkers Pose Threat to Self and Others - The New York Times
According to the National Safety Council, “the rise in cellphone-distracted walking injuries parallels the eightfold increase in cellphone use in the last 15 years.” Although the council found that 52 percent of distracted walking episodes occurred at home, the nationwide uptick in pedestrian deaths resulting from texting while walking has prompted the federal government to offer grants of $2 million to cities to combat distracted walking."
Final paragraphs from a timely trade-off reality check; also see Why Silicon Valley Won't Enlist in Anti-Terror Fight (BloombergBusiness) and Eric Schmidt on How to Build a Better Web (NYT)
"Companies say that weakening the encryption in their products would only make regular users more vulnerable to cybertheft and set a bad precedent for other countries to follow. What’s more, they note, there are plenty of encryption options not made by American companies and many of them are free.Terrorists Mock Bids to End Use of Social Media - The New York Times
Addressing the topic on Monday, the White House urged Silicon Valley to find a compromise.
“We are going to resist the urge to trample a bunch of civil liberties,” Mr. Earnest said in the White House briefing. But he added, “We don’t want terrorists to have a safe haven in cyberspace.”"
Monday, December 07, 2015
Sign of the times
"Toys that talk back are some of the hottest holidays gifts this year. And they may soon be hot items for hackers.Hello (hackable) Barbie - The Washington Post
Cybersecurity researchers uncovered a number of major security flaws in systems behind Hello Barbie, an Internet-connected doll that listens to children and uses artificial intelligence to respond. Vulnerabilities in the mobile app and cloud storage used by the doll could have allowed hackers to eavesdrop on even the most intimate of those play sessions, according to a report released Friday by Bluebox Security and independent security researcher Andrew Hay."
Check the full post for more investment details, including Medium's series B
"Here’s a snapshot of some choice Google Ventures investments, broken down by the firm’s five categories. It includes the colossal ones (Uber, Slack), smaller investments (mobile ad shop Vungle) representative of Google Ventures’ existing industry presence, and newcomers (ClassPass) representative of where it’s heading."Google Ventures Stake In Uber, Unicorns Could Pay Off For Alphabet | Re/code
Likely not good news for FedEx, UPS, and the USPS
"Amazon.com plans to roll out thousands of branded semi-trucks to help shuttle inventory between its facilities, an effort to take more control of its shipping processes.Amazon Buys Semi-Truck Fleet to Shuttle Inventory - Digits - WSJ
The move is partly a marketing effort — the trucks will be seen by customers as they move about — as well as a move towards greater efficiency in stocking its dozens of warehouses.
While the effort is largely about managing merchandise, Amazon has been working to take more direct responsibility for what’s known as “the last mile,” the final leg of a package’s route to customers’ homes, typically the most costly."
Sunday, December 06, 2015
Excerpt from a timely Jean-Louis Gassée reality check (spoiler alert: despite the iOS post title, it's about Windows Universal Apps)
"(To dispel any lingering doubts: Ballmer’s peevish behavior makes it clear that he didn’t leave Microsoft on his own. Instead of feeling liberated and grateful, he tries to settle scores, as if Nadella betrayed him in a palace coup. Ballmer might be right about cloud revenue reporting and Windows Phone strategy, but his public outbursts won’t help the company or the value of his shares. Nor can he dream of another Steve and hope to return to the helm. Ballmer’s departure in 2014 was dignified; he should have left us with that memory.)"Panic in iOS Land | Monday Note
Friday, December 04, 2015
Open for business; also see Q&A: Apple’s Craig Federighi talks open source Swift, Objective-C and the next 20 years of development (TNW)
"Making good on a plan it announced earlier this year, Apple said today it has released its Swift programming language for building software on iOS, the Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV to the open source community.Apple Takes Swift Programming Language to Open Source Community | Re/code
Apple unveiled a site devoted to the language, Swift.org, and has created a repository containing Swift’s public source code on the software code-sharing site Github.
The plans calls for Apple to turn Swift loose to the worldwide community of software developers who will improve it, add new features and capabilities and push its use toward new platforms. One key participant in the effort is computing giant IBM, which as an Apple partner on the enterprise software front is already well acquainted with Swift."
It'll be interesting to see if ~$150 Windows 10 notebooks can regain some competitive ground
"Combine Chromebooks with devices running on Android, and Google's share of the edtech market is even more impressive. As of the third quarter of this year it had 53 percent of the market for K-12 devices bought by schools and school districts.Google's Chromebooks make up half of US classroom devices
Google's rapid gains come at the expense of its biggest rivals. Over the past three years, Apple's market share been slashed by more than half, from 52 to 24 percent and Microsoft's market share has slipped from 43 to 24 percent. Even Google seems a little surprised."
An automation + employment reality check
"The fear that technology is poised to kill jobs in unprecedented numbers is widely prevelent [sic] these days. Nothing is likely to ease that anxiety much, but a new research paper might prompt some second thoughts.Automation Is a Job Engine, New Research Says - The New York Times
Using government data, James Bessen, a researcher and lecturer at the Boston University School of Law, examined the impact of computer automation on 317 occupations from 1980 through 2013. His conclusion, in a sentence, was: “Employment grows significantly faster in occupations that use computers more.”"
Also see Elon Musk: Only a Carbon Tax Will Accelerate the World's Exit from Fossil Fuels (Fortune)
"Selling all-electric sports cars is good, but what billionaire Elon Musk says he really wants is to save the planet.Musk Says Selling Cars Is Good, But Saving the Earth Is Better - Bloomberg Business
In a Paris presentation about climate change, the 44-year-old Tesla Motors Inc. co-founder argued that regulators need to discourage carbon emissions -- and not just because it would help him sell more of his cars with price tags of $75,000 or higher.
“Am I asking for rules that favor my company? Is this because I want to get richer?,” Musk asked a crowd of a few hundred students at La Sorbonne University in Paris on Wednesday. “If what I really cared about was maximizing my net worth I would never have created an electric car company. It has to be one of the dumbest ways to invest money.”"
New from Branson's vertically-integrated family of companies
"Virgin Galactic, the commercial space company founded by the billionaire, plans to send small rockets inflight from the Boeing 747-400 nicknamed “Cosmic Girl” that it purchased from Branson’s airline.Virgin Galactic to Hurl Rockets to Space From Boeing 747 Jet - Bloomberg Business
Branson is among the entrepreneurs vying to shake up the $6 billion commercial launch business known for years-long waits to loft $200 million satellites. Instead of firing large boosters from conventional pads, the new rocketeers are working to loft smaller craft from planes and remote locations in Texas or the South Pacific.
“Air launch enables us to provide rapid, responsive service to our satellite customers on a schedule set by their business and operational needs, rather than the constraints of national launch ranges,” George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s chief executive officer, said in a statement Thursday."
Also see The Doomsday Invention: Will artificial intelligence bring us utopia or destruction? (The New Yorker)
"The new center will also collaborate with the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, Imperial College London, and the University of California, Berkeley. A major focus of the collaboration would be around what Price called “the value alignment program,” where software programmers would team up with ethicists and philosophers on trying to write code that would govern the behavior of artificial intelligence programs.Artificial Intelligence Ethics a New Focus at Cambridge University - Digits - WSJ
“As a species, we need a successful transition to an era in which we share the planet with high-level, non-biological intelligence,” Price said. “We don’t know how far away that is, but we can be pretty confident that it’s in our future. Our challenge is to make sure that goes well.”
The new center in Cambridge joins others around the world set up recently to study the consequences of intelligent machines. In July, the Future of Life Institute, based in Cambridge, Mass., awarded $7 million from Elon Musk to “keep AI robust and beneficial.”"
Thursday, December 03, 2015
From a Flash market dynamics reality check
"It would be more metaphorically accurate to say Adobe just hammered the 20th nail into Flash's coffin, but it'll take another 10 or so before we can really call it dead. This is just the latest development in a years-long shift to build Flash capabilities, like animated graphics, premium video and refined typography, directly into Web browsers.The death of Adobe's Flash is lingering, not sudden - CNET
There are lots of good reasons to get rid of Flash. Browser makers say it's a top sore spot for security, performance and shorter battery life. No matter how eager you may be, though, transitions away from technology as widely used as Flash take years to achieve."
Former Microsoft CEO says Windows 10 universal apps "won't work," questions cloud revenue (Apple Insider)
Microsoft may have to start planning its shareholder meetings to conflict with Los Angeles Clippers game schedules
"When a shareholder asked Nadella to address the lack of apps for its Windows Phone platform, the company's current chief executive outlined his Windows universal apps strategy, which hopes to entice developers to create new software that can run on both desktop and tablet Windows 10 PCs and Windows Phone.Former Microsoft CEO says Windows 10 universal apps "won't work," questions cloud revenue
Ballmer began talking over the top of Nadella, stating "that won't work," and saying that Microsoft should instead develop software to enable users to run Android apps on Windows Phone.
This spring, Microsoft announced plans for Windows 10 and Windows Phone to run a new type of universal Windows 10 app, while also enabling developers to easily port their software from Android or iOS into universal Windows apps."
Also see Crazy Like a Box: Going Public Can Give Start-Ups Outsize Power (NYT)
"Shares of Box, the cloud storage and collaboration company, fell slightly after the company reported third-quarter sales that were better than forecast and a loss that was in line with expectations.Box Slightly Beats Street in Q3, Raises Full-Year Guidance | Re/code
Box boosted its sales guidance for the fiscal year saying it expects to post revenue of as much as $300 million for the year, up from a previous estimate of as much $297 million.
Revenue was $78.7 million, up 38 percent from the year-ago quarter. Analysts had expected $77 million. Billings rose 37 percent to $89.4 million. Box recorded a per-share loss of 31 cents on a non-GAAP basis, an improvement from the loss of $2.32 it reported a year ago. Shares fell by less than 1 percent in after-hours trading."
I suppose this type of armchair quarterbacking was inevitable
"One major Microsoft Corp. investor wasn’t happy with the level of disclosure Wednesday at the company’s annual shareholder meeting: Steve Ballmer.Ballmer Chides Microsoft Over Cloud Revenue Disclosures - Bloomberg Business
The company should disclose profit margins and sales for its cloud and hardware businesses, Microsoft’s former chief executive officer said.
“It’s sort of a key metric -- if they talk about it as key to the company, they should report it,” Ballmer, who is the company’s biggest individual shareholder, told Bloomberg at the software maker’s annual meeting in Bellevue, Washington."
Wednesday, December 02, 2015
All about expectations
"Yahoo’s market capitalization is $33 billion. Its stake in the Chinese Internet firm Alibaba is worth $32 billion alone. Throw in its $9 billion stake in Yahoo Japan and net cash on its books, and the market is valuing the company’s core business at less than zero — even if it has to pay capital gains taxes on its overseas stakes.Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer Has Run Out of Time for a Turnaround - The New York Times
Considering the core search and Internet advertising business should throw off more than $800 million of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization next year, it is probably worth well over $1 billion to private equity firms.
Yet the market thinks it has negative value. Fetching almost any price at all could make Ms. Mayer into an investor hero."
Signs of the times
"By acknowledging that Flash is dying, Adobe is able to better position its animation tools for the future. Flash Professional CC is already capable of creating HTML5 content — in fact, it already represents a third of all content created in the app, according to Adobe. By taking up the name Animate CC, Adobe is able to sell Flash Professional CC as a general animation tool, rather than a tool geared toward Flash. The name change will take effect early next year.Adobe is telling people to stop using Flash | The Verge
Flash itself will not be changing, and Adobe is continuing to support it. However, it sounds like that support will most heavily focus on security. Adobe says it will be working with Microsoft and Google to maintain Flash's compatibility and security inside of web browsers. It's also going to be working with Facebook to make sure that Flash games remain secure. Adobe says that it expects to see Flash use continue, for now, in web gaming and "premium" video, because HTML5 or other standards "have yet to fully mature" to meet those areas' needs."
"The 360-degree videos are part of an innovative assemblage of performing arts groups that went online on Tuesday morning at the Google Cultural Institute, a free website that made its name in recent years by digitizing and displaying the collections of more than 800 art museums and historical archives. The Google initiative is now moving into the performing arts, and this exhibition is the first fruit of its partnerships with more than 60 groups from around the world — with the groups providing the content and Google providing the gee-whiz technology."Google Cultural Institute Puts Us All Onstage - The New York Times
A big month for commercial space flight
"When we last left off with the two companies hired to fly cargo to the International Space Station their unmanned rockets had exploded, incinerating thousands of pounds of cargo and leaving the astronauts on the orbiting lab in a bit of a lurch.Orbital and SpaceX to fly again for first time after rockets exploded - The Washington Post
Suddenly, the so-called golden age of commercial space flight was more molten orange than gilded. And the widespread belief that the industry was finally, at long last, ready to take flight once again had to yield to questions about whether it really can be entrusted with a mission so difficult that traditionally only governments performed it.
Now the question is: can commercial flight rebound and endure?"
See this Facebook note for full details
"Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and chief executive of Facebook, announced on Tuesday that he and his wife would give 99 percent of their Facebook shares “during our lives” — holdings currently worth more than $45 billion — to charitable purposes.Zuckerberg Vows to Daughter He’ll Donate 99% of His Facebook Shares - The New York Times
The pledge was made in an open letter to their newborn daughter, Max, who was born about a week ago.
Mr. Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, said they were forming a new organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, to manage the money, through an unusual limited liability corporate structure. “Our initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities,” they wrote."
Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Tangentially, see Cisco to connect video conferencing technology with Acano (TechTarget)
"Microsoft Corp. is angling to manage more corporate phone calls and meetings, adding cloud-based services that compete with offerings from vendors like Cisco Systems Inc. and Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google.Microsoft Steps Up Enterprise Phone and Conferencing Push - Digits - WSJ
The software giant on Monday is introducing new features to its Office 365 service, best known for providing online versions of Microsoft productivity applications, that lets users conduct voice calls as well as audio and video conferences.
Microsoft said one new feature, called Cloud PBX, routes voice calls so customers don’t need to operate private branch exchange equipment or install software on their own premises. Another feature can host online meetings with up to 10,000 attendees, the company said."