Start up: Musk’s strange takeover, Apple’s cloud escapees, Gawker v Thiel redux, the Trump question, and more

Blade Runner: Sean Young and Harrison Ford in a Polaroid
Yes, OK, but what about the typography in the film? Photo by kaytaria on Flickr. (Where you can see a ton more Blade Runner Polaroids – all including Sean Young.)

Like many others already have, you could sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email.

A selection of 14 links for you. Yes, they are. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Tesla makes offer to acquire SolarCity • Tesla Motors

Elon Musk:

»in March 2015, we launched Tesla Energy, which through the Powerwall and Powerpack allow homeowners, business owners and utilities to benefit from renewable energy storage.

It’s now time to complete the picture. Tesla customers can drive clean cars and they can use our battery packs to help consume energy more efficiently, but they still need access to the most sustainable energy source that’s available: the sun.

The SolarCity team has built its company into the clear solar industry leader in the residential, commercial and industrial markets, with significant scale and growing customer penetration. They have made it easy for customers to switch to clean energy while still providing the best customer experience. We’ve seen this all firsthand through our partnership with SolarCity on a variety of use cases, including those where SolarCity uses Tesla battery packs as part of its solar projects.

So, we’re excited to announce that Tesla today has made an offer to acquire SolarCity.

«

Guess who is a big shareholder in SolarCity?
link to this extract

 


April 2016: Elon Musk supports his business empire with unusual financial moves • WSJ

April 2016:

»Since October 2014, SolarCity Corp. has tried to lure individual investors to the solar-power business by pitching $214m of what it calls “solar bonds” through the company’s website.

The biggest buyer by far, though, was rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Inc., including $90m of $105m sold last month.

The bonds were an “excellent investment,” billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk said in an interview. And he knows more about the companies than anyone. Mr. Musk is their largest shareholder, the chairman of SolarCity and chief executive of SpaceX.

«

Hmm.
link to this extract

 


Former Apple engineers escaped to create their own cloud startup • Recode

Arik Hesseldahl:

»One group of Apple network engineers led by Jason Forrester, now SnapRoute’s CEO, was detailed to a skunkworks effort to, as one source familiar with the assignment put it, “build something they couldn’t get from any existing networking vendor” — software that was powerful enough to meet Apple’s industrial-grade networking needs, but also flexible enough to allow frequent on-the-fly changes to respond to shifting demands.

As the work progressed, Forrester and his team chafed at their hidden role in the behemoth project. “Slowly, our desires to share our ideas with the world began to overshadow the thrill of working for Apple,” he wrote. They left their jobs last year and started SnapRoute.

SnapRoute makes software that helps companies manage their cloud systems, whether those systems are internal or external. Right now, if a company is overwhelmed with a sudden demand, such as a suddenly popular new app bringing in unprecedented numbers of photo uploads, it’s expensive and slow to change how the network works. SnapRoute’s software makes that switch quicker and cheaper.

The 20-person startup emerged from stealth mode last week with $4.5 million in venture capital investments led by Lightspeed Ventures.

«

link to this extract

 


Well….Google just announced at SMX that the 3-pack is going to start… • Google+

Joy Hawkins:

»Well….Google just announced at SMX that the 3-pack is going to start containing an ad soon. So instead of the 3-pack it’s going to be 1-ad + 2 organic listings. Yes, the ones right on Google search (not the expanded pack). Be prepared to try to get clients in the top 2 instead of the top 3!

«

Translation: in local search on mobile/desktop, there will be an ad (or two) above the maps, and then two organic results. Here’s a screenshot.

It’s the only way for Google to keep growing its ad revenues as mobile becomes bigger but the number of searches on it don’t grow.
link to this extract

 


Disdain for Gawker and praise for Thiel at Facebook’s stockholders meeting • BuzzFeed News

Alex Kantrowitz:

»Facebook shareholders (at least the ones not named Mark Zuckerberg) didn’t have a say in Peter Thiel’s reelection to Facebook’s board Monday, but it didn’t seem to matter. At Facebook’s annual stockholders meeting, shareholders applauded Zuckerberg’s move to reelect the controversial board member. Some even cheered Thiel on in his campaign to destroy Gawker.

Thiel is at once funding lawsuits against Gawker, a Facebook publishing partner, and serving as a delegate for Donald Trump, who after the Orlando shooting suggested the children of Muslim immigrants are a security threat to the United States. These positions, to some, may appear to conflict with Facebook’s mission “to make the world more open and connected.” Especially since Facebook is a critical source of traffic to publishers like Gawker, and publishers help fill Facebook’s News Feed with high-quality content. But to Zuckerberg, whose majority voting share means he has absolute power over these decisions, and to those in attendance, Thiel is still the right guy for the job.

«

link to this extract

 


You won’t be able to sue the next Gawker • Medium

Cody Brown:

»If [Peter] Thiel is successful in destroying Gawker, he will martyrize them. The Hollywood movie that will come from this a few years from now is amazing to imagine. Social Network — The Sequel. Staring Jesse Eisenberg, Hulk Hogan, Donald Trump, and a series of tech billionaires with egos as thin as egg shells.

I now feel hesitant to bring up a point like this in a public forum. So many of those I know in the heart of Silicon Valley are thoughtful, deeply intelligent, interesting people but this is their blind spot. They have funded or built massive new institutions of social change without much scrutiny but the scrutiny is finally coming and they don’t know how to handle it. They will cut you out or block you for even engaging. Paul Graham and a partner at Andreessen Horowitz unfollowed after I made a few tweets in support of Gawker. A single email from any of these guys could torpedo my next round of funding. I have more to lose than to gain by putting my name next to this.

And that’s the point.

If the price of dissent in Silicon Valley is too high, dissent will find a darker avenue. The next ValleyWag is likely to be more like WikiLeaks. It could be anonymous. It could be outside the jurisdiction of The United States. And it could use all the shiny tools of the web, Tor, bitcoin financing, Zeronet, the blockchain, to exist above the law.

«

link to this extract

 


Apple unlikely to make big changes for next iPhone • WSJ

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Eva Dou:

»The biggest planned change in this year’s phones is the removal of the headphone plug, which will make the phone thinner and improve its water resistance, said people familiar with that matter.

The Lightning connector will serve double-duty as a port for charging the phone and for connecting headphones, they said. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said he expects the new iPhone to be one millimeter thinner than the current iPhone.

Apple plans bigger design changes for 2017, the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. Those changes could include an edge-to-edge organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, screen and eliminating the home button by building the fingerprint sensor into the display, according to people familiar with the matter.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

«

So there will have to be some Extra Thing to make it worth plugging headphones into your Lightning connector. And as has been asked, how do you charge while listening to music?
link to this extract

 


Moto X designer will soon be ex Moto designer • The Verge

Vlad Savov:

»Jim Wicks, the man responsible for the celebrated designs of the 2013 Moto X and 2014 Moto 360 smartwatch, is leaving the former Motorola after 15 years of loyal service. Having joined Motorola in 2001 after design lead roles at Sony and Sapient, Wicks was part of the leadership team that stayed on during the tumult of being taken over by Google and sold on to Lenovo. But this year has seen the Motorola name phased out from public use and Rick Osterloh, the previous chief of the company, departing to head up a new hardware unit at Google. Wicks is now following suit and moving into academia, joining Northwestern University’s Segal Design Institute as a full-time faculty member.

«

As I’ve said before, I think Motorola won’t make another Android Wear smartwatch. It’s dead, Jim. The gutting of Motorola – well, that’s corporate life.
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Facebook scraps in-video links to other sites • BBC News

»Video-makers can still add a link to the text that appears at the top or bottom of native video posts. However, this does not appear if the video is being watched in full-screen mode, and will therefore be missed if a user is allowing one clip to auto-play after another.

A “click for more” link does still appear superimposed over videos viewed on PCs.
However, it now makes the clips appear larger rather than directing users to third-party websites, as had been the case before.

Many broadcasters – including the BBC – upload shortened versions of their material in order to direct audiences to the full versions on their own sites.

Others, such as al-Jazeera’s AJ+ service, are content to build awareness for their brands by making clips for the social media platform without trying to send users to their sites.

Facebook itself has an incentive to discourage audiences from leaving as this allows it to show them more ads.
“This is further evidence that having eaten the audiences for newspapers, Facebook is now keen to stifle the audiences for broadcasters,” commented Roy Greenslade, professor of journalism at City University London, and a former editor of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Times.

«

Facebook is becoming an inescapable gravity well for publishers.
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Now examining: Blade Runner • Typeset In The Future

Dave Addey goes into another of his deliciously detailed examinations of the fonts, symbols and typefaces (those are different, right?) in this iconic film. Previous efforts have looked at Moon and Alien. The latter was, like this, directed by Ridley Scott, and Addey notices something odd in an early scene when Deckard gets into a VTOL “Spinner”:

»The Spinner’s landscape-orientation TV shows a display that may be familiar to regular TITF readers:

This ENVIRON CTR PURGE display is identical to the one we saw in Alien, just before the Nostromo exploded :

As if that wasn’t enough self-plagiarism, Ridley Scott also steals a second display from his earlier sci-fi masterpiece.

«

There’s your lunchtime reading sorted.
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Refugee rescue app pulled from App Store after it is outed as fake • The Guardian

Alex Hern:

»An app which purported to offer aid to refugees lost in the Mediterranean has been pulled from Apple’s App Store after it was revealed as a fake.

The I Sea app, which also won a Bronze medal at the Cannes Lions conference on Monday night, presented itself as a tool to help report refugees lost at sea, using real-time satellite footage to identify boats in trouble and highlighting their location to the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Moas), which would provide help.

In fact, the app did nothing of the sort. Rather than presenting real-time satellite footage – a difficult and expensive task – it instead simply shows a portion of a static, unchanging image. And while it claims to show the weather in the southern Mediterranean, that too isn’t that accurate: it’s for Western Libya.

The app was developed by Grey Group, an ad agency in Singapore that’s part of global advertising giant WPP.

«

Read on for complete and absolute bull spouted by Grey’s executive creative director about “algorithms”. Shameful, and shameless.
link to this extract

 


How Is Donald Trump going to quit? • Gawker

Ashley Feinberg lays out four scenarios, of which this one – during the convention – strikes me as possible:

»Remember, absolutely everything Donald Trump does is about A) creating an appearance of having won and B) getting as much positive attention as humanly possible. To succeed in this scenario, Trump needs something huge to take everybody’s mind off the fact that he’s backing out of the presidency. Trump needs to announce Trump TV.

Or the Trump News Network or Trump Broadcasting or Der Stürmer or whatever he decides to call it. This way, Trump gets to turn the Republican National Convention, where virtually every media outlet in the nation has gathered, into a press conference for the launch of his very own television network.

As Vanity Fair pointed out, his whole campaign has basically been building to this point. His constant bashing of the media certainly must mean he thinks he can do it better. And to his credit, Trump does have a knack for commanding a national audience. Why bother being President, a job he neither wants nor is qualified for, when he can do the only part he actually enjoys (screaming things on television) for the rest of his life?

«

link to this extract

 


The weird story behind the Trump campaign’s $35,000 payment to ‘Draper Sterling’ • ThinkProgress

Judd Legum on money paid to a company that oddly has the same name as the famous fictitious ad guys:

»[Jon] Adkins co-founded the medical device company with Paul Holzer, a former Navy Seal and current medical student at Dartmouth. Holzer was involved in Charlie Baker’s run for governor in 2014 — he ran the campaign’s “voter contact strategy.” He was also part of the “management and strategy team” for Missourians For John Brunner, a candidate for governor.

Trump paid an additional $3,000 each to Holzer and Adkins in May for “field consulting.” Holzer listed Adkins’ home as his address.

This is when things get interesting.

The only other apparent public mention of Draper Sterling effectively accuses it of being a scam that helps perpetrate legally questionable activity.

It comes from an FEC complaint against an entity called “Patriots For America,” a federal super PAC seeking to influence the Missouri governor’s race. The complaint, filed on May 12 by an economics professor named Aaron Hedlund, alleges that Patriots For America listed no receipts or disbursements on its FEC filings, yet sent out direct mail.

It also highlights an unusual debt of $56,234 to “Draper Sterling LLC” for “business consulting.” Hedlund describes the debt as “mysterious,” “highly unusual” and a potential violation of the law.

«

There’s usually something a bit fishy around presidential campaigns, but this is just weird. I find the Trump campaign’s (“campaign’s”) shenanigans endlessly fascinating because it’s like a clown car being driven on a Formula 1 circuit. Bits are flying off all over the place.
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Missing the boat in music • Asymco

Horace Dediu:

»how does a 15 million user base in 1 year compare with the growth rate for the incumbents Spotify and Pandora?

The following graph shows the ramps for Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music since their moments of market entry. The accumulation of users by Apple looks to be the fastest yet.

This is, of course, due to a maturing use case. Apple did not have to educate people to the notion of music as a subscription. It could just announce it and users would discover it and just sign up, especially if they were already iCloud subscribers and had a credit card attached to their iTunes account.

But that’s the whole point. Apple did not have to move first in music subscriptions. It did not even have to move second or third. When it did move it could just skim the market and add to its already healthy Services revenue (orange line in the first graph above.) Missing the boat in music in this case meant capturing all the value quickly and with minimal expense.

Fundamentally, Apple’s entry into music subscriptions was a sustaining effort. Streaming sustained Apple rather than disrupting it. The difference may seem merely one of semantics, but it is also the difference between life and death for a challenger. Meaning matters.

«

Some discussion in the comments about whether streaming is a disruptive innovation after all, rather than sustaining. My own comment there is that it depends on surrounding preconditions, which have taken years to come right.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

One thought on “Start up: Musk’s strange takeover, Apple’s cloud escapees, Gawker v Thiel redux, the Trump question, and more

  1. The silliest thing I have read about the Gawker verdict fallout has to be: “The next ValleyWag is likely to be more like WikiLeaks.”. Such a perfect confusion of the difference between “what interests the public” versus “the public interest” (i.e. being a bullying gossip columnist chasing clickbait is not like real information). It’s the point Stephen Colbert used to make about the reality of what the typical media pundit is (a tawdry snarker) versus what they imagine themselves to be (a heroic true-teller).

    Does he think the many verdicts against dedicated copyright infringement sites will make things worse also? (i.e. they’ll just go where presumably they’ll be untouchable, right? – and there’s a lot more interest there than silly-con-valley backbiting)

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