Start up: Google + Apple v PCs, longform reading lives, the hole in US incomes, keep that password!, and more

Google is feeding romance novels into its systems to make them more conversational, darling. Are you feeling _ucky? Photo by Profound Whatever on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. But it’s Friday now, so there is that. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Can Google and Apple pull the plug on the PC market? •

Paul Thurrott:

»where Microsoft’s Windows 10 and Windows phone are still precarious from a mobile app perspective, Apple iOS and Google Android have steadily improved on the productivity app side. Ironically, they’ve done so with Microsoft’s help: The Microsoft Office apps, in particular, not to mention its ever-growing collection of other apps for Android and iOS, are both excellent and full-featured. What Android and iOS are missing, however, are platform features that make those systems more suitable for the traditional productivity tasks that we now perform on PCs.

Surely – surely – those shortcomings will soon be addressed. And it’s not coincidental, I think, that both Google and Apple have shipped in the past six months devices —the Pixel C and the iPad Pro, respectively — that can replace traditional Windows laptops. All that’s missing, of course, is a bit of sophistication in the underlying software.

And sitting here on the cusp of that revolution, we can finally see how Microsoft’s Windows phone and Windows RT failures have deeper ramifications than just the smart phone and tablet markets: It is much easier to improve mobile platforms enough to replace PCs than it is to try and simplify PCs and make them more suitable for mobile usage scenarios. Especially when you have Microsoft helping you on the app side of the equation. Imagine how much of a blocker it would be for enterprises if Microsoft Office wasn’t already available on Android and iOS.


There’s a hell of a lot of inertia behind the PC market, with big OEMs with big investments in the PC market continuing; the Pixel C and iPad Pro are both pricier than pretty much all the PCs sold at any time. But there’s something in this: as today’s teenagers grow up, they’ll not want to have to learn Windows.

About an hour after I wrote that, Apple announced an enterprise linkup with SAP – pushing IoS and especially iPads into enterprise. So perhaps Thurrott is right.
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Many middle-class Americans are living paycheck to paycheck • The Atlantic

Neal Gabler:

»[In a survey] The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47% of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?

Well, I knew. I knew because I am in that 47%.

I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others. I know what it is like to have liens slapped on me and to have my bank account levied by creditors. I know what it is like to be down to my last $5—literally—while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs. I know what it is like to dread going to the mailbox, because there will always be new bills to pay but seldom a check with which to pay them. I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding; it all depended on whether something good happened. And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.


Tell me again how you don’t understand how Donald Trump’s populist neo-fascist calls to bring work back to America strike a chord with some.
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A journalist turned content marketer’s take on Dan Lyons’ Disrupted, a Book that hits close to home • LinkedIn

Dan Levy:

»For what it’s worth, here’s what I think happened:

Halligan and Shah [at Hubspot] hired Lyons because they thought it would be cool to have a real journalist in the fold and that he could be an asset to their content team. With the IPO on the horizon, the publicity around the hire wouldn’t hurt either. Once on board, Lyons was passed off to some well-meaning but inexperienced managers who didn’t know what to do with him. Not being someone who plays well with others to begin with – particularly young women whom he views as intellectually inferior – he rejected the quirky, youth-oriented culture that was poles apart from the hardboiled newsroom environment he was used to. He pitched a few ideas for making himself useful but got frustrated when they weren’t picked up. He made some unfortunate enemies – ironically, it was his cartoonish rivalry with the PR woman he calls “Spinner” that really set things off – and was saddled with a jealous boss who made his life miserable. By the time he left the company he’d already scored a gig at HBO and decided to parlay his weird experience into an entertaining, if mean-spirited memoir. He’s a writer after all.


There’s a lot more, though.
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GM, Lyft to test self-driving electric taxis • WSJ

Mike Ramsey and Gautham Nagesh:

»General Motors Co. and Lyft Inc. within a year will begin testing a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric taxis on public roads, a move central to the companies’ joint efforts to challenge Silicon Valley giants in the battle to reshape the auto industry.

The plan is being hatched a few months after GM invested $500 million in Lyft, a ride-hailing company whose services rival Uber Technologies Inc. The program will rely on technology being acquired as part of GM’s separate $1bn planned purchase of San Francisco-based Cruise Automation Inc., a developer of autonomous-driving technology.


City yet to be announced. Detroit?
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Longform reading shows signs of life in our mobile news world • Pew Research Center

Ann Mitchell, Galen Stocking and Katerina Eva Matsa:

»A unique, new study of online reader behavior by Pew Research Center, conducted in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, addresses this question from the angle of time spent with long- versus short-form news. It suggests the answer is yes: When it comes to the relative time consumers spend with this content, long-form journalism does have a place in today’s mobile-centric society…

…The analysis finds that despite the small screen space and multitasking often associated with cellphones, consumers do spend more time on average with long-form news articles than with short-form. Indeed, the total engaged time with articles 1,000 words or longer averages about twice that of the engaged time with short-form stories: 123 seconds compared with 57.1

This gap between short- and long-form content in engaged time remains consistent across time of day and the pathway taken to get to the news story. However, when looking solely within either short- or long-form content, engaged time varies significantly depending on how the reader got to the article, whether it is midday or evening, and even what topic the article covers, according to the study.


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Google is feeding romance novels to its artificial intelligence engine to make its products more conversational • BuzzFeed News

Alex Kantrowitz:

»“Her blouse sprang apart. He was assaulted with the sight of lots of pale creamy flesh bursting out of a hot pink bra, the cleavage high and perky. It was a gorgeous surprise, all that breast she’d been hiding under her crisp tailored shirts.”

That passage may not turn you on, but it’s certainly working for Google’s artificial intelligence engine.
For the past few months, Google has been feeding text like this to an AI engine — all of it taken from steamy romance novels with titles like Unconditional Love, Ignited, Fatal Desire, and Jacked Up. Google’s AI has read them all — every randy, bodice-ripping page — because the researchers overseeing its development have determined that parsing the text of romance novels could be a great way of enhancing the company’s technology with some of the personality and conversational skills it lacks.




And it’s working, too. Google’s research team recently got the AI to write sentences that resemble those in the books. With that achievement unlocked, they’re now planning to move on to bigger challenges: using the conversational styles the AI has learned to inform and humanize the company’s products, such as the typically staid Google app.


For reference, look at what happened when IBM fed the Urban Dictionary to Watson. The outcome is what’s known in Fleet Street newspaper parlance as a “reverse ferret”. (Thanks Evelyn Smith for the links.)
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Apple hires Google X’s co-founder for its health projects • MarketWatch

Jennifer Booton:

»Apple Inc. may have a solution to quash criticism that it’s lost its innovation mojo. The company recently hired Yoky Matsuoka, the co-founder of Google X, a semi-secret division within Google responsible for things like smart contact lenses and driverless cars.

Matsuoka, who originally moved to the US from Japan to pursue a tennis career but has since earned a Ph.D. in robots from MIT, will report directly to Apple COO Jeff Williams. Williams oversees Apple’s futuristic health initiatives, such as HealthKit, ResearchKit and the new CareKit.

Apple confirmed the hiring to MarketWatch, but did not provide details about her role. Matsuoka’s LinkedIn page has been updated to reflect the move, but she doesn’t list a specific title.

Matsuoka most recently served as CEO of Quanttus, an app that gathers biomedical data, such as blood pressure, so that users can monitor key health trends. Her role at Apple will likely involve the company’s new smart-health initiatives, which includes apps that track health data via Apple Watch.


Hiring one person will quash criticism? Some hope. But note the outflow of high-level people from Google X. And what will happen to Quanttus, which got $14m in venture funding in early 2014?
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I’m Sorry • Dr. Craig Wright

»I believed that I could do this. I believed that I could put the years of anonymity and hiding behind me. But, as the events of this week unfolded and I prepared to publish the proof of access to the earliest keys, I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot.

When the rumors began, my qualifications and character were attacked. When those allegations were proven false, new allegations have already begun. I know now that I am not strong enough for this.


“Craig Wright now doubts he is Satoshi Nakamoto”.
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Alibaba grows to 423m active shoppers • Tech In Asia

»Alibaba’s increasingly mobile shoppers are the latest evidence that China is long past its PC era. People are not just using their phones for reading and games – they’re now doing pretty much everything on those smartphones, from basic grocery shopping to in-store payments to managing an online personal wealth fund.
China as a whole will see 55.5 percent of ecommerce spending done on mobile in 2016, according to projections from eMarketer, so Alibaba’s customers are ahead of the curve. The country is well ahead of America, which remains the United States of PC. Over in the US, mobile commerce will be an estimated 25 percent of total ecommerce this year.


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The problems with forcing regular password expiry • CESG Site

»The problem is that this doesn’t take into account the inconvenience to users – the ‘usability costs’ – of forcing users to frequently change their passwords. The majority of password policies force us to use passwords that we find hard to remember. Our passwords have to be as long as possible and as ‘random’ as possible. And while we can manage this for a handful of passwords, we can’t do this for the dozens of passwords we now use in our online lives.
To make matters worse, most password policies insist that we have to keep changing them. And when forced to change one, the chances are that the new password will be similar to the old one.
Attackers can exploit this weakness.


Finally, finally, a government advisory – from the UK’s spy agency GCHQ no less – which tells us what we all knew but could not complain about because it was Policy.

2 thoughts on “Start up: Google + Apple v PCs, longform reading lives, the hole in US incomes, keep that password!, and more

  1. Self driving taxis I can understand. But self driving ELECTRIC taxis? Won’t they spend most of their time on charge?

    • Guarantees a low accident rate 👍 and then in 12 months they can outrank human-driven taxis for safety.

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