Start up: Seattle v the Quake, Nadella on phones, Apple Pay in UK, Google’s giant ad and more


Forgotten. But by who? Photo by theen… on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. Follow The Overspill on Twitter (this isn’t optional). I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Exclusive: CEO Nadella talks Microsoft’s mobile ambitions, Windows 10 strategy, HoloLens and more » ZDNet

Nadella tells Mary Jo Foley:

If anything, one big mistake we made in our past was to think of the PC as the hub for everything for all time to come. And today, of course, the high volume device is the six-inch phone. I acknowledge that. But to think that that’s what the future is for all time to come would be to make the same mistake we made in the past without even having the share position of the past. So that would be madness.

Therefore, we have to be on the hunt for what’s the next bend in the curve. That’s what, quite frankly, anyone has to do to be relevant in the future. In our case, we are doing that. We’re doing that with our innovation in Windows. We’re doing that with features like Continuum. Even the phone, I just don’t want to build another phone, a copycat phone operating system, even.

So when I think about our Windows Phone, I want it to stand for something like Continuum [which lets you plug a phone into a suitable dock/keyboard and have it render PC-sized screens]. When I say, wow, that’s an interesting approach where you can have a phone and that same phone, because of our universal platform with Continuum, and can, in fact, be a desktop. That is not something any other phone operating system or device can do. And that’s what I want our devices and device innovation to stand for.

Last week’s announcement was not about any change to our vision and strategy, but for sure it was a change to our operating approach.

That last bit puzzles me. What is your “operating approach”, if it isn’t the embodiment of your vision and strategy?
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Sixty-five THOUSAND Range Rovers recalled over DOOR software glitch » The Register

John Leyden:

Jaguar Land Rover is recalling no less than 65,000 of its SUVs due to a software problem that caused the cars’ doors to unlock themselves – potentially while in motion.

The issue, which potentially creates a heightened theft-by-hijack risk, affects Range Rover and Range Rover Sport vehicles sold in the UK over the last two years, the BBC reports. The flaw means that doors can remain unlatched even when in the “closed” position so that they can open while the car is in motion, Automotive News explains.

The recall follows recent reports that car thieves were targeting Range Rovers and BMW X5s using readily obtainable black box kit that made it straightforward to unlock and start cars that relied on keyless ignition systems.

On the plus side, they sold 65,000? Should have said “oh, man, we have to recall TWO MILLION. Yes, very successful year, so sorry, got to go.”
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UK launch of Apple Pay heralds start of something big » CCS Insight

Ben Wood of the analysis company:

UK consumers and retailers, unlike their US counterparts, are familiar with the concept of “tap and pay”; it’s not an unfamiliar mechanism that they need to be educated to adopt.

Add to that the huge number of iPhone users in the UK and it’s clear Great Britain is something of a “golden isle” for Apple. Our research suggests that more than half of active users on some mobile networks have an iPhone; even though many won’t have a model that works with Apple Pay, the fierce brand loyalty that Apple inspires could prompt many to upgrade to a compatible iPhone.

The allure of the Apple brand also means everyone wants to work with the company, or is pushed to do so. Barclays bank initially refused to support Apple Pay, instead favouring its own bPay service. Early this morning, on the launch day for Apple Pay and in the face of considerable customer pressure, Barclays tweeted to say that it would support Apple Pay in the future.

Further evidence of Apple’s clout and determination is getting Apple Pay to work with the complexities of the London Transport network and the body that runs it, TFL. Although Apple isn’t the first company to offer such support, its scale means that millions of people travelling around London now can pay for their travel using an Apple device.

That “more than half of active users on some networks have an iPhone” stat is one worth considering. Generally, iOS has about 30-35% of the smartphone install base in the UK. Another stat to record: UK contactless stats show that in December 2014

“£380.8m was spent in the UK in December using a contactless card. This is an increase of 25.8% on the previous month and 330.8% over the year.”

Let’s see how that changes.
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Apple Pay » Transport for London

Note this part:

Always use the same device

If you use Apple Pay on more than one device, for instance when the same payment card is linked to both an iPhone and an Apple Watch, make sure to choose one device and use it every time you travel, so you:

• Avoid incomplete journeys
• Benefit from daily and weekly capping
Please be aware that you might receive payment notifications on all your devices, regardless of which one was used for touching in or out.

Seems to imply that a different token is created when you put the same card onto the phone and the watch. Which, in the longer term, would mean the watch could be completely independent of the phone (once you figure out how to embed the card..)
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Why buying ‘death of PC’ hype is dangerous » Laptop Mag

Avram Piltch:

Even though people won’t stop using (or buying) computers any time soon, the widespread but incorrect belief that computers are on the way out has serious implications. Corporate executives, investors and developers read the same news stories as everyone else and change their plans accordingly. While the PC space needs more innovation and better apps, many companies that make software and publish Web tools will transition even more of their resources to mobile. Websites that today offer more content on the page for desktop could end up getting stripped down for all users, on the belief that phone screens are the only ones that matter.

“The challenge the PC has is that it isn’t attracting much in the way of apps that exploit its capabilities and resonate with a broad audience,” said Ross Rubin of Recticle Research.

News of the form factor’s demise certainly won’t help.

As investors jump on the anti-PC bandwagon, companies that make computer hardware will be under increased pressure to produce fewer and lower-quality products. Consumers will see fewer innovations like the Microsoft Surface and Lenovo Yoga, and more commodity laptops in their place.

Hate to break it to you, Avram, but customers aren’t generally buying the Surface and the Yoga. They’re already buying, as they have been for years, the commodity products – where NPD says (in the article) that the average desktop sells for $482, and laptop for $442.

Set the rapid improvements in mobile (cameras, processors, form factors, sensors) against the dead-end nature of most PC tasks, and you can see why developer resources in hardware and software are going into mobile. There’s a lot of uncharted territory to explore.
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The earthquake that will devastate Seattle » The New Yorker

Kathryn Schulz:

Under pressure from [tectonic plate] Juan de Fuca, the stuck edge of North America is bulging upward and compressing eastward, at the rate of, respectively, three to four millimetres and thirty to forty millimetres a year. It can do so for quite some time, because, as continent stuff goes, it is young, made of rock that is still relatively elastic. (Rocks, like us, get stiffer as they age.) But it cannot do so indefinitely. There is a backstop—the craton, that ancient unbudgeable mass at the center of the continent—and, sooner or later, North America will rebound like a spring. If, on that occasion, only the southern part of the Cascadia subduction zone gives way—your first two fingers, say—the magnitude of the resulting quake will be somewhere between 8.0 and 8.6. That’s the big one. If the entire zone gives way at once, an event that seismologists call a full-margin rupture, the magnitude will be somewhere between 8.7 and 9.2. That’s the very big one.

Flick your right fingers outward, forcefully, so that your hand flattens back down again. When the next very big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west—losing, within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries. Some of that shift will take place beneath the ocean, displacing a colossal quantity of seawater.

• Last earthquake involving Juan de Fuca: 315 years ago.
• Usual frequency of earthquakes involving Juan de Fuca: every 243 years.
• Variance of quake timing: not given (but known by someone at Oregon State University).
• Value of real estate in Seattle and Oregon: probably falling by the time you read this.
• To put the tech lens on this, consider that Microsoft and Amazon are both headquartered in Seattle. Now wipe them off the map. Pause.
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Google accidentally reveals data on ‘right to be forgotten’ requests » The Guardian

Sylvia Tippman and Julia Powles:

Less than 5% of nearly 220,000 individual requests made to Google to selectively remove links to online information concern criminals, politicians and high-profile public figures, the Guardian has learned, with more than 95% of requests coming from everyday members of the public.

The Guardian has discovered new data hidden in source code on Google’s own transparency report that indicates the scale and flavour of the types of requests being dealt with by Google – information it has always refused to make public. The data covers more than three-quarters of all requests to date.

Previously, more emphasis has been placed on selective information concerning more sensational examples of so-called right to be forgotten requests released by Google and reported by some of the media, which have largely ignored the majority of requests made by citizens concerned with protecting their personal privacy.

These include a woman whose name appeared in prominent news articles after her husband died, another seeking removal of her address, and an individual who contracted HIV a decade ago.

In other words, the “Right to be forgotten” is overwhelmingly about ordinary people who don’t want to be indexed. This is so telling about the PR spin that has gone on around this (“the ruling has already been criticised after early indications that around 12% of applications were related to paedophilia. A further 30% concern fraud and 20% were about people’s arrests or convictions… many other applications have come from corrupt public figures and criminals desperate to hide their past.
An actor who had an affair with a teenager, a celebrity’s child who was convicted of criminal offices and a man who tried to kill members of his family were among the first requests.
” Where do you think the Daily Mail got those details?).

And guess what happened when they queried Google about it?

“The underlying source code has since been updated to remove these details.”

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Google’s largest shopping ad EVER spotted on the SERPs » Wordstream

Margot da Cunha:

giant ad on RHS of Google result
the new ad format takes up just about the entire right side of the page. But, don’t get too excited, if you look closely you’ll see that this isn’t just one ad for one advertiser, but rather a price comparison between different e-commerce sites and stores. So no, one advertiser cannot pay to completely dominate the right side of the page, but rather can be included in the product comparison sponsored ad on the right side. It looks like regular, non-sponsored Knowledge Graph results, but it’s definitely sponsored. Google started experimenting with adding ads to the bottom of Knowledge Graph results early back in 2014, but most of the info there was still organic.

“The way Google lists the pricing in these makes it much more obvious which options are the less expensive ones, so advertisers will probably have to ensure they have the least expensive option if they take advantage of this new format,” says Slegg.

Clever: advertisers will have to bid more to get placement, yet price lower to be chosen, thus eroding their margins. The only winning strategy long-term is to not need to be found through search. (SERPS in the headline, if you don’t know, is “Search Engine Results Page[s]”.)
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Xiaomi success inspires every man and his dog to make smartphones in China » Reuters

Yimou Lee and Paul Carsten:

The call of the world’s biggest smartphone market is proving irresistible for entrepreneurs in China, where even purveyors of concrete mixers, refrigerators and rock music are mimicking local trailblazer Xiaomi with their own handsets.

But the market shrank in early 2015 for the first time in six years and sales have fallen at one-time leader Xiaomi. That sudden about-turn raises questions over whether there is any chance for the likes of construction machinery maker SANY Group Co Ltd, Gree Electric Appliances Inc of Zhuhai and veteran rockstar Cui Jian.

The slowdown may be too much for all but the largest handset makers, much less a plethora of me-toos, some analysts say. In a crowded market plagued by price wars, entrants will have to convince buyers to abandon established brands with phones that surpass even premium models, US research firm Gartner said.

“It’s not that easy to go bankrupt making phones, but it’s also not easy to be profitable,” said Taiwan-based Gartner analyst CK Lu, who covers the mainland smartphone market. “If you don’t have good differentiation, you’re putting yourself in a saturated market.”

China had 155 smartphone brands selling over 1,000 handsets a month as at end-March, from 110 two years ago, said analyst Neil Shah of Counterpoint Research. In neighbouring India, there were 103 brands, over half of which are Chinese.

There will be a shakeout, but quite when is a separate question.
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Kuwait announces mandatory DNA database for its citizens » DNAForce

The recent suicide bombing that slain 26 innocent people during Friday prayers on the 26th of June has finally reached its ultimatum as the Kuwaiti legislature has now implemented a law that calls for a mandatory DNA testing on every single Kuwaiti citizen including its foreign residents.

The law states that security agencies must help the government to create a database on all 1.3 million Kuwaiti citizens and 2.9 million foreign residents in order to make faster arrests when it comes to criminal cases.

It is also stated that for those who refuse to give out their sample will be sent to jail for a year. It will also come with a fine of $33,000 or €29,700. If a citizen is proven guilty of faking their sample, they are entitled to be imprisoned for seven years.

Note how the foreign residents greatly outnumber the nationals. Will it apply to visitors too? This is a really slippery slope, and Kuwait has put itself halfway down it straight away.
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The real threat posed by powerful computers » The New York Times

Quentin Hardy:

the real worry, specialists in the field say, is a computer program rapidly overdoing a single task, with no context. A machine that makes paper clips proceeds unfettered, one example goes, and becomes so proficient that overnight we are drowning in paper clips.

In other words, something really dumb happens, at a global scale. As for those “Terminator” robots you tend to see on scary news stories about an A.I. apocalypse, forget it.

“What you should fear is a computer that is competent in one very narrow area, to a bad degree,” said Max Tegmark, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the president of the Future of Life Institute, a group dedicated to limiting the risks from A.I.

In late June, when a worker in Germany was killed by an assembly line robot, Mr. Tegmark said, “it was an example of a machine being stupid, not doing something mean but treating a person like a piece of metal.”

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2 thoughts on “Start up: Seattle v the Quake, Nadella on phones, Apple Pay in UK, Google’s giant ad and more

  1. The Quentin Hardy piece reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s story of the man whose invented a formula that changes the melting point of ice to about 80deg F. Formula gets loose … Devastating consequences … Like the paper clip idea … Great imagination there … What book was that?!?

    • Cat’s Cradle with its idea of “ice-nine”. There are different kinds of ice that do have different melting points, which can be scary when you discover it after reading the book.

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