The 2Q 2016 smartphone scorecard: players searching for an exit


Exit. Who’s next? Photo by Today is a good day on Flickr.

There comes a time in every former top-ranking sports player’s career when they have to accept reality: they’re not up to it any more. They keep getting beaten by people whom they once would have trampled; what should have been easy wins are now struggles, or upsets. Eventually, they accept the reality everyone else has already seen: it’s time to exit.

And now we’re seeing that happen in the smartphone market. This isn’t really about sales of iPhones being down year-on-year – though they are, for the second quarter in a row, and though in the previous quarter Apple managed to keep its handset ASP (average selling price – calculated by total handset revenue divided by the number of handsets) up, in this quarter it was substantially down, below $600 for the first time since 2Q 2014.

But more generally, this is the quarter where China really began to muscle into the top ranks of Android OEMs – and all the players who used to be the big names there are inching towards the exit. The problem for the big-name Android OEMs is that, because it’s Android, they’re replaceable. Android on one handset is quite a lot like Android on another. But an Apple device, and its integrated software, is sui generis.

Numbers for all

So here are the numbers showing how that replacement is going. The list below is all in diminishing size of handset shipment volume. Other data sometimes has to be estimated, and in the case of Huawei, OPPO and vivo you’d have to be in one of the big analyst camps to know what their ASPs and hence revenues are, and you might have to be at the companies to know whether they’re profitable.

Standout elements from the quarter: Sony made a profit! (Even as it dwindled.) Lenovo kept shrinking; Apple’s ASP fell; Samsung trundled on; LG made more losses (the G5 flagship essentially sank); Microsoft barely turned up.

Q2 2016: the smartphone scorecard

* denotes estimate: explanations below

Company Handsets
(million)
Revenues Handset
ASP
Operating
profit/loss
Per-handset
profit/loss
% profit/loss
Samsung 77.0 $22.61bn $275.64* $3.75bn $48.66* 16.59%
Apple 40.4 $24.05bn $595.26 $6.71bn* $166.09* 27.9%*
Huawei 32.1 $7.06bn* $220 positive? positive? positive?
OPPO 22.6 $4bn?? $177* positive? positive? positive?
vivo 16.4 $3.7bn?? $225.60* positive? positive? positive?
ZTE 14.7 $2.5bn?? $170* ?? ?? ??
Xiaomi 14.5 $2.28bn* $150 negative? negative? negative?
LG 13.9 $2.88bn $207.52 –$177m –$12.73 –6.15%
Lenovo/
Motorola
11.3 $1.71bn $150.97 –$163m –$14.42 -9.53%
Sony 3.1 (not a misprint) $3.64bn $582.26 $4.03m $1.30 0.11%
HTC 2.3* $0.5bn* $217.39* –$128.50m –$55.87* -25.7%
Microsoft
Mobile
1.2 (not a misprint either) $0.23bn* $190.80* –$45m* –$38* –19.56%
Everyone else 135.4m

Assumptions:
Samsung: 6m tablets sold for $175 ASP at zero profit; 11.4m featurephones sold for $15 ASP at zero profit. (For every $1 fall in featurephone price, smartphone ASPs rise by $0.14 – so with zero featurephones and 6m $175 tablets, smartphone ASP would be $277.84. For tablets, every $5 rise in ASP lowers smartphone ASPs by $0.38 – so if tablets were free and there were no featurephones, smartphone ASPs would be $291.37. It isn’t a huge difference; tablets and featurephones are together generate about $880m, or less than 5% of overall mobile revenues.)

Apple: operating profit calculated at the historic figure of 27.9% (derived from multiple financial analysts). Might have been lower or higher – the 6S range maybe costs more to make than the 6 range, but there’s the SE range which might be cheaper because less retooling needed.

Huawei, OPPO, vivo, ZTE, Xiaomi: ASP figures all estimated, based on their perceived market power

How do I calculate the revenue figures (and hence ASPs) for OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi? According to According to Strategy Analytics,

Global Smartphone Industry revenues declined by -5% YoY in Q2 2016, due to softening of volumes. Apple was followed by Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and vivo from a revenue perspective. The report also captures the Wholesale Average Selling ASP’s for all major vendors across six regions. ASP’s in the quarter declined by -6% globally.

So if Oppo and vivo were bigger than Sony, they must have done more than 3.64bn. (Xiaomi must have been less than them too.) I’m guessing they weren’t that much bigger. For Huawei, which like those two doesn’t release revenue figures, I’ve estimated an ASP (up from the previous quarter) and generated the revenue figure from that.

LG: assume tablet sales were minimal, and had zero profit.

HTC: given that it now sells the Vive headset too, though not in large numbers (certainly not millions), it only takes a small adjustment from the overall revenue.

Microsoft Mobile: Microsoft gave figures for featurephone sales, of 9m; assuming an ASP of $15 for those and gross margin of $5 each (as before) gives the featurephone revenue. Assume the same manufacture cost as before, and you get zero gross margin; even with zero sales/marketing and R+D, you get a negative margin.

Rampant deflation

Everyone’s seeing price declines, which is what you’d expect in a growing market where you also have Moore’s Law and scale coming into play. But this is barely a growth market. Smartphone shipments were up just 0.26% year-on-year. When you look at the trend over the past nine years, we’ve really hit a wall here:

Smartphone growth year-on-year.png

The red line shows the four-quarter moving average, and that’s clearly down. What that suggestion of slowdown doesn’t quite tell is how the market is diverging. The premium end was long ago saturated: people who could buy expensive phones did so, but now there’s no new market to sell into in the developed countries – and consequently the US, China and western Europe are expected to see slowdowns, and even reductions in volume, this year (per IDC). The action, such as it is, will be in emerging markets such as the Middle East, Africa and Latin America – though even they will only see growth of about 5.6%.

In such a world, the companies which initially made Android a Huge Thing are beginning to head for the exit. HTC built the first Android phone. Sony had to go Android (as Sony Ericsson) because it was losing money hand over fist. LG had to figure out how to make smartphones quickly, because its featurephone business was being destroyed.

Now though they’re seeing those be destroyed all over again. You can see the numbers above. And here’s a graph of how pretty much everyone is seeing sales growth compared to the smartphone market turn negative (so if the market grows 10% and they grow 5%, they’re falling behind):

Smartphone OEMs: growth against the overall market

Year-on-year shipment growth measured against the overall market

But I’ve been collecting the revenue and profit/loss numbers too (and publishing them) going back to Q4 2014. That’s seven quarters. What if you add that up?

Seven quarters of hurt

Here’s the lineup when you calculate it over seven quarters:

Seven-quarter smartphone scorecard covering Q4 2014 to Q2 2016 inclusive

(all estimate elements as above)

Company Handsets
(million)
Revenues Handset
ASP
Total operating
profit/loss
Per-handset
profit/loss
% profit/loss
Samsung 555.4 $158.70bn $285.74 $17.95bn $32.32 11.31%
Apple 401.07 $263.59bn $657.22 $73.62bn* $183.56* 27.92%
Xiaomi 116.92 $18.62bn* $159.25 ? ? ?
LG 102.75 $21.58bn $210.02 –$428.39m –$4.17 –1.98%
Lenovo/
Motorola
121 $17.44bn $144.13 –$1,114m –$9.26 –6.39%
Sony 47.8 $17.13bn $358.37 –$908.33m –19.00 –5.30%
HTC 26.1 $6.45bn* $247.13 –$717.51m –$27.49 –11.12%
Microsoft
Mobile
41.3 $5.76bn $139.47 –$2,621m –$63.46 –45.50%
(Huawei, OPPO, vivo and ZTE aren’t included because I don’t have figures for them over the period; and there aren’t any financials for any of them.)

This bears out a truth that is borne out again and again by analyst reports into best-selling handsets, brand loyalty, and customer satisfaction: these days it’s a two-horse race, Apple and Samsung.

Xiaomi is an unknown, financially. But all the rest are losing money hand over fist, and as Vlad Savov wrote in a terrific piece entitled “Android OEM death watch: Sony, HTC and LG edition“, you do wonder why they soldier on:

The Android ecosystem has never been more diverse than it is today, but I suspect that what we’re witnessing now is a peak from which the basic economics of a maturing smartphone market will rapidly drag us down. Niche players like Nextbit, Vertu, and BlackBerry might survive thanks to their low volume of sales and correspondingly limited costs. But the big names we’ve known for so long, the Sonys and HTCs of this world, seem fated to fade from view.

I think this is absolutely right. Look at those numbers: why is LG putting up with a division that has lost money, and shows no sign of stopping? Although Sony made money this quarter, it’s fading from view. Lenovo’s ASP is so woefully low that it’s an obvious target for every up-and-coming Chinese OEM. (I was recently contacted by Meizu, which is launching into the Asian market: yet another rival for the uncommitted phone buyer.)

It isn’t even as if these struggling companies have scale: Sony has only sold 12% as many phones as Apple over the period (and 8.6% as many as Samsung, which might be the better comparison); LG has managed a more respectable 18.5% of Samsung’s number, but it’s losing money on them, over seven quarters.

Sure these companies have a lot invested in this business; you can’t just shut down a smartphone business like closing a corner shop. There are contracts, staff, distribution deals. But you can edge out, which is what Sony seems to be doing as its range and distribution shrinks. Will LG follow, or is its rivalry with Samsung in Korea just too strong to let it ever let go?

I’m honestly puzzled by companies which tot up millions in red ink and decide it’s fine to carry on. Microsoft is clearly getting out (who wouldn’t, looking at those margins) but how can Sony or Lenovo look at their returns and feel they’re OK? That’s the puzzle here.

Sure, there’s lots else going on: Apple’s falling ASPs and falling sales point to the saturation of the markets. Equally, the cheap hardware is getting really good – the Shenzhen effect, as volume of production means that the only distinguishing thing is software and, to a lesser extent, chip design ability. (Apple, Samsung and Huawei stand alone here.) I’m certainly impressed by Huawei, which offered a dual-lens camera on the new P9 which has a neat refocus/re-aperture effect, well ahead of Apple.

(Huawei’s problem is it doesn’t have a coherent strategy: it offered “3D Touch” before Apple too – as did ZTE – but hasn’t followed through; only the latest P9 still has it. Will the dual lens offering spread to the rest of its offerings, or fall by the wayside as happened with HTC’s dual system on the M8 in 2014?)

In search of the lost profits

What then happened to all the profits that HTC, Lenovo, and Sony used to earn? Simple: eaten by Samsung, Apple, and Chinese rivals. The growth of companies like OnePlus, Meizu, and of course Huawei, vivo and OPPO and (less so) Xiaomi means the potential for scale falls away from those already in the market.

However it can take a while for these effects to become visible. HTC’s sales peaked in 2011; LG’s, Sony’s and Microsoft’s in the second half of 2014. From around that time, all the Chinese OEMs began growing rapidly, first in their home market, and then India; and in Huawei’s case, Africa, Europe and the US.

Late exit

Apple looks to have peaked in 2015 – but it has a solid ecosystem and so many users that any erosion would take a long, long time. That’s in stark contrast to every Android OEM, which (as even Xiaomi is finding out) is disposable and replaceable.

But it can take a long time. BlackBerry’s handset sales peaked in 2010, and yet it’s still going. (Though will John Chen finally announce the company is getting out of hardware at the quarterly results on September 28? One to watch.) HTC has been ebbing for a while, for example. Sony has begun withdrawing to Asia. LG is being pushed aside in Europe by Huawei.

The only question is when some of the executives at these companies will finally ask why they’re still trying to play a losing hand. There comes a time for the players to leave the game. When is it?

Start up: the stuck smart home, McAfee’s hack trick, ICO probes Deepmind deal, Flash the zombie, and more


Yes, Runkeeper tracks your runs. But Norway’s consumer council thinks it tracks more than that. Photo by Gordon on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Ain’t that something? I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The smart home is stuck • Tech.pinions

Jan Dawson:

»The challenge, then, is the addressable market for most smart home technology is pretty small, composed of innovators and early adopters in the classic technology diffusion curve. As a result, many products are attempting to squeeze every opportunity out of these small markets until they’re maxed out. Nest has been criticized for not innovating more around its original product but I suspect this is the result of a deliberate strategy to saturate many individual product markets rather than focus on ongoing significant improvements in a single market. This helps to explain Nest’s acquisition of Dropcam, its smoke and carbon monoxide detector, and the other products it’s been rumored to be working on. There’s more mileage in opening up new markets than there is in squeezing incremental value out of existing markets already nearing saturation.

I see some people referring to Amazon’s Alexa as a more mainstream smart home or home automation product, and I think that’s actually a red herring. Yes, it can be used to control smart home devices but I suspect (a) only a subset of Alexa devices are used for this purpose and (b) such a focus would limit its appeal to a niche within that smart home early adopter category. I think Alexa’s potential is much broader than that and it’s precisely because it isn’t just a smart home controller. Alexa isn’t extending the smart home market – it’s more mainstream precisely because it’s not limited to that small and limited opportunity.

«

link to this extract


Mobile traffic dominates among the web’s most popular sites • The Atlantic

Adriene Lafrance:

»More than half of Facebook’s roughly 1.7 billion monthly users visit the site exclusively from their smartphones—that’s 894 million mobile-only users each month, up from 581 million such users last year and 341 million mobile-only users in 2014, according to the company’s latest earnings report.

Google confirmed last year that more searches come from mobile devices than computers in 10 countries, including the United States. Over the holiday season, Amazon said more than 60% of shoppers used mobile. And Wikipedia, which recently revamped the way it tracks site traffic, says it’s getting more mobile than desktop visits to its English language site.

In April, Wikipedia had about 361 million unique visits from smartphones and tablets compared with some 229 million from desktops—meaning roughly 61% of traffic to the English-language version of Wikipedia came from mobile devices, according to data provided by a spokeswoman.

«

Didn’t know the Wikipedia stat, but that’s really persuasive.
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John McAfee apparently tried to trick reporters into thinking he hacked WhatsApp • Gizmodo

William Turton:

»McAfee has a history of being shifty with the press about his alleged cybersecurity exploits. In March, for instance, during a media tour that included appearances on CNN and RT, McAfee claimed he would be able to hack into the phone of San Bernadino terrorist Syed Farook. McAfee never proved his claims, and later admitted that he was lying in order to garner a “shitload of public attention.” And earlier this year, McAfee hedged on his terrorism-prevention ideals for America during an interview with CNN about his Libertarian candidacy for president, saying that his strategy for preventing homegrown terrorism was “difficult to explain.”

Now, it seems McAfee has tried to trick reporters again, by sending them phones pre-cooked with malware containing a keylogger, and convincing them he somehow cracked the encryption on WhatsApp. According to cybersecurity expert Dan Guido, who was contacted by a reporter trying to verify McAfee’s claims, McAfee planned to send this reporter two Samsung phones in sealed boxes. Then, experts working for McAfee would take the phones out of the boxes in front of the reporters and McAfee would read the messages being sent on WhatsApp over a Skype call.

«

Pointless.
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ICO probes Google DeepMind patient data-sharing deal with NHS Hospital Trust • Computer Weekly

Caroline Donnelly:

»The Information Commissioner’s Office, the data protection watchdog, confirmed an investigation into the arrangement is underway, on the back of at least one complaint from the general public.

The deal gives DeepMind access to the healthcare records of 1.6 million patients that pass through three hospitals in North London, which fall under the care of the Royal Free Hospital Trust.

The complaint, seen by Computer Weekly, questions whether DeepMind will be expected to encrypt the patient data it receives when at rest.

“Whilst the information-sharing agreement insists that personally identifiable information – such as name, address, post code, NHS number, date of birth, telephone number, and email addresses, etc – must be encrypted whilst in transit to Google, it does not explicitly prohibit that data being unencrypted at the non-NHS location,” the complaint read.

«

First there’s a deal; then it turns out it’s not directly approved. The complaint is essentially that individuals at Google/Deepmind might access personal data. This is the essential battleground of the coming years: how compatible is tight data regulation with data mining?
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Let’s talk about Amazon reviews: how we spot the fakes • The Wirecutter

Lauren Dragan:

»Amazon has a history of trying hard to deal with offenders and shut them down. In fact, in April, Amazon sued another round of companies that are accused of selling fraudulent reviews. But by the time those companies are caught, their clients have already made a bunch of sales, and the fraudulent reviewers will likely pop up again under new names to repeat the process.

(Want to know more? Wirecutter headphones editor Lauren Dragan talks to Marketplace Tech about compensated Amazon reviews and how to tell real crowdsourced opinions from astroturfing.)

You have a few ways to suss out what may be a fake review. The easiest way is to use Fakespot. This site allows you to paste the link to any Amazon product and receive a score regarding the likelihood of fake reviews.

For example, we ran an analysis on some headphones we found during a recent research sweep for our guide about cheap in-ear headphones. You can see from the results below that the headphones’ reviews didn’t score so well.

«

Hadn’t come across Fakespot before; it seems pretty useful.

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The real cost of big tech’s accounting games • FT.com

Jonathan Ford:

»How much did LinkedIn make over the past three years? Sounds a simple enough question doesn’t it? But it is also one that is capable of being answered in multiple and very diverse ways.

First, let’s look at the figure the US online networking site wants you to focus on. That’s a mouthful called adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda), and the total there between 2013 and 2015 came in at a positive $1.7bn.

Sounds pretty hunky dory? Well, now check out the operating profit line for the business — the one calculated according to the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) that companies must present but often don’t emphasise. Over the same period, LinkedIn racked up a $67m loss.

What explains the yawning $1.8bn difference between those two figures? It isn’t simply the depreciation and amortisation charges the company took against the value of its assets. Those, while pretty hefty, came to just $791m. No, the biggest single reason for the negative swing was the $1bn cost of the stock LinkedIn stuffed into its employees’ pay packets over those three years.

«

Why does it matter if the company gives stock to employees? As Ford explains, it’s because by doing that

»the firm denies itself the chance to sell those shares or options for value in the market. Failing to recognise that forgone cash effectively understates the cost the company has incurred in employing those individuals.

«

So stock grants are a cost. So they come off the bottom (operating) line. I’m constantly surprised by how many companies’ non-GAAP results are reported as if they were the ones to compare.
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Google faces record-breaking fine for web search monopoly abuse • Sunday Telegraph

Christopher Williams:

»Google faces a record-breaking fine for monopoly abuse within weeks, as officials in Brussels put the finishing touches to a seven-year investigation of company’s dominant search engine.

It is understood that the European Commission is aiming to hit Google with a fine in the region of €3bn, a figure that would easily surpass its toughest anti-trust punishment to date, a €1.1bn fine levied on the microchip giant Intel.

Sources close to the situation said officials aimed to make an announcement before the summer break and could make their move as early as next month, although cautioned that Google’s bill for crushing competition online had not been finalised.

The maximum possible is around €6.6bn, or a tenth of Google’s total annual sales.

It will mark a watershed moment in Silicon Valley’s competition battle with Brussels. Google has already been formally charged with unlawfully promoting its own price comparison service in general search results while simultaneously relegating those of smaller rivals, denying them traffic.

«

I’m hearing the same about the timing and intention from my sources; the fine, meanwhile, is indeterminate.
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This fitness app tracks you too much, consumer advocates claim • Fortune

David Meyer:

»According to the Norwegian Consumer Council, which has lodged a complaint with the country’s data protection authority, Runkeeper transmits data about its users all the time, not just when the app is in use.

The Norwegian data protection commissioner, Bjørn Erik Thon, confirmed to Fortune that his office has received the complaint and will now look into it.

“Everyone understands that Runkeeper tracks users while they exercise, but to continue to do so after the training session has ended is not okay,” said Finn Myrstad, the consumer council’s technical director.

The data in question includes timestamped location information, as well as Google advertising IDs that can be used to identify the individual.

“Our users’ privacy is of the utmost importance to us, and we take our obligation to comply with data protection laws very seriously,” Runkeeper CEO Jason Jacobs told Fortune. “We are in the process of reviewing the issues raised in the complaint, and we will cooperate with the Norwegian [data protection authority] if it has any questions arising out of the complaint.”

According to the council, Runkeeper’s terms and conditions do not explain how regularly data is transmitted, and users do not give consent to being monitored in this way. The council claims this breaches Norwegian and EU data protection laws.

«

Here’s Runkeeper’s privacy policy. It’s astonishingly vague (though in that respect, probably not so different from other privacy policies). What intrigues me is why the Runkeeper CEO didn’t just say “nah, we don’t collect data after your run.”
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Five things you can get in India with a missed call • WSJ

Shefali Anand:

»Want to transfer funds from your account? Give your bank a missed call. Want to hear Bollywood music? Dial a number and hang up.

Making a missed call by calling a number and letting it ring is a popular way of communicating in India because the caller doesn’t have to spend money. Marketing companies, politicians, banks and others now use this practice to reach millions who have cellphones but limited means.

«

Brilliant. Recalls how, in the days when long-distance calls were expensive, kids on their travels would call the operator and ask to set up a reverse-charge call to their parents. Parent’s phone rings: “Alley Okey is calling from Wichita, Kansas. Will you accept the charge?” Parent: “No.” Conversation ends, with parent knowing that the kid is OK and presently in Wichita.
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Chinese smartphone market has slowed, but Huawei, Oppo & Vivo have not • Counterpoint Technology

»According to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Market Monitor service, the demand for smartphones in China softened during Q1 2016 (Jan-Mar) as the smartphone shipments were down 2% annually and 13% sequentially.

Commenting on the results, Research Director, Neil Shah, said: “In spite of the Chinese holiday season quarter, the Chinese smartphone market demand reached a standstill. This has led to intense competition between the players as they struggle to take share away from each other. In a market with hundred of brands, growth is now limited to a handful of players with the greatest marketing budgets and headturning designs, and available at competitive price points.

“Only five brands registered healthy growth during the quarter. Oppo, Huawei and Vivo drove the majority of the volume, capturing a combined 40% of the total Chinese smartphone market. Demand for rest of the brands declined, especially Apple after the strong demand for iPhone 6 & 6 Plus in the quarter a year ago, and lacklustre performance from Lenovo, ZTE and Coolpad.”

The Chinese smartphone market saw a lull in the first two months of 2016, however sales for smartphones started to pick up in March, with the largest sales contribution from Huawei, Oppo and Vivo, the new leaders in Chinese domestic market.

«

Other notable points: 98% of phones sold were smartphones (hence Microsoft’s 90% year-on-year drop); the “premium” segment of RMB3000+ ($450+) makes up a fifth of the market, with Apple, Samsung and Vivo dominating.
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HTML5 by default: Google’s plan to make Chrome’s Flash click-to-play • Ars Technica UK

Peter Bright:

»In a plan outlined last week, Flash will be disabled by default [in Google Chrome] in the fourth quarter of this year. Embedded Flash content will not run, and JavaScript attempts to detect the plugin will not find it. Whenever Chrome detects that a site is trying to use the plugin, it will ask the user if they want to enable it or not. It will also trap attempts to redirect users to Adobe’s Flash download page and similarly offer to enable the plugin.

«

Great!

»

There will be a few exceptions to this policy, with Google planning to leave Flash enabled by default on the top 10 domains that depend on the plugin. This list includes YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and Amazon.

«

Crap.

»

Even this reprieve is temporary. The plan is to remove sites from the list whenever possible—Twitch, for example, is switching to HTML5 streaming, so should start to phase out its use of Flash—and after one year the whitelist will be removed entirely. This means that after the fourth quarter 2017, Flash will need to be explicitly enabled on every site that tries to use it.

«

“After the fourth quarter of 2017”, aka 2018. Flash, the desktop web’s malware zombie. (Notice that all those sites somehow muddle through on mobile, which is far bigger, without Flash.)
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Google’s health data grab, Intel’s mobile halt, satire wars, iPad Pro beats Surface Pro, and more


The ex-chief of Microsoft Windows has bought one, and he reckons it’s important. And IDC reckoned it outsold the Surface in the 1Q. Photo by matsuyuki on Flickr.

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A selection of 14 links for you. Yeah, I know, but I couldn’t stop. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How AI can predict heart failure before it’s diagnosed » NVIDIA Blog

»The last place you want to learn you have heart failure is where it often winds up being diagnosed: in the emergency room.

Researchers analyzing electronic health records are using  artificial intelligence and GPUs to get ahead of this curve. They’ve shown they can predict heart failure as much as nine months before doctors can now deliver the diagnosis.

A research team from Sutter Health, a Northern California not-for-profit health system, and the Georgia Institute of Technology, believe their method has the potential to reduce heart failure rates and possibly save lives.

“The earlier we can detect the disease, the more likely we can change health outcomes for people and improve their quality of life,” said Andy Schuetz, a senior data scientist at Sutter Health and an author of a paper describing one aspect of the research. “That’s what’s exciting to me – the potential to change the future.”

«

Fascinating (though what do you do with the knowledge that you’re probably going to have heart failure in the next nine months? How specific is the diagnosis? The results haven’t yet been published).

Nvidia’s interest is because it builds the graphics processing units (GPUs) which turn out to be ideally suited for machine learning.
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Revealed: Google AI has access to huge haul of NHS patient data | New Scientist

Hal Hodson:

»It’s no secret that Google has broad ambitions in healthcare. But a document obtained by New Scientist reveals that the tech giant’s collaboration with the UK’s National Health Service goes far beyond what has been publicly announced.

The document – a data-sharing agreement between Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust – gives the clearest picture yet of what the company is doing and what sensitive data it now has access to.

The agreement gives DeepMind access to a wide range of healthcare data on the 1.6 million patients who pass through three London hospitals run by the Royal Free NHS Trust – Barnet, Chase Farm and the Royal Free – each year. This will include information about people who are HIV-positive, for instance, as well as details of drug overdoses and abortions. The agreement also includes access to patient data from the last five years…

…This is the first we’ve heard of DeepMind getting access to historical medical records, says Sam Smith, who runs health data privacy group MedConfidential. “This is not just about kidney function. They’re getting the full data.”

The agreement clearly states that Google cannot use the data in any other part of its business. The data itself will be stored in the UK by a third party contracted by Google, not in DeepMind’s offices. DeepMind is also obliged to delete its copy of the data when the agreement expires at the end of September 2017.

«

From the document: “Data to be processed other than for the direct care of the patient must be pseudonymised in line with the NHS Act 2006″. (Emphasis in original.)
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The Internet of Things has a dirty little secret » Internet of Shit

»As the market eventually saturates and sales of internet-widgets top off, you can bet that everyone from the smallest to largest vendor will look to what’s next: the treasure trove that is everything it knows about you.

Many of the newest IoT devices are the types of household appliances you won’t replace for a decade. We’re talking about a thermostat, fridge, washing machine, kettle, TV or light — long term, there’s just no other way to be sustainable for the creators of these devices.

There is an alternative path that some could take: maybe Nest needs to increase its revenue, so it decides to charge a monthly subscription model for its thermostat. Now you need to pay $5 per month or it’ll lock you out.

The question then, is if you’d pay for it? Will you pay for a subscription for everything in your home?

Maybe: if the device comes for free, with that subscription, and guarantees your data will be kept private… but I suspect that many people prefer to own outright and simply won’t care about the privacy compromise.

The future of your most intimate data being sold to the highest bidder isn’t dystopian. It’s happening now.

«

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My tablet has stickers » Learning By Shipping on Medium

Steve Sinofsky (you know, the ex-Windows chief) has moved from a Surface Pro to an iPad Pro for his work:

»Every (single) time the discussion comes up about moving from a laptop/desktop (by this I mean an x86 Windows or Mac) to a tablet (by this I mean one running a mobile OS such as Android or iOS) there are at least several visceral reactions or assertions:

• Tablets are for media consumption and lightweight social.
• Efficiency requires keyboard, mouse, multiple monitors, and customizations and utilities that don’t exist on tablets.
• Work requires software tools that don’t/can’t exist on tablet.

Having debated this for 6+ years, now isn’t the time to win anyone over but allow me to share a perspective on each of these (some of which is also discussed in the podcast and detailed in the posts referenced above)…

…The fact that change takes time should not cause those of us that know the limitations of something new to dig our heels in. Importantly, if you are a maker then by definition you have to get ahead of the change or you will soon find yourself behind.

«

He asks developers, in particular, to butt out of the “but tablets can’t..” discussion.
link to this extract


The death of Intel’s Atom casts a dark shadow over the rumored Surface Phone » PCWorld

Mark Hachman:

»Intel’s plans to discontinue its Atom chips for phones and some tablets may not have killed the dream of a Microsoft Surface phone—just the piece of it that made it so enticing.

In the wake of a restructuring that relegated the PC to just another connected device, Intel confirmed Friday that it has cancelled its upcoming SoFIA and Broxton chips. That leaves Intel with just one Atom chip, Apollo Lake, which it had slated for convertible tablets.

Microsoft has never formally commented on its future phone plans, save for a leaked email that suggests that Microsoft is committed to the Windows 10 Mobile platform and phones running ARM processors. But fans of the platform have long hoped for a phone that could run native Win32 legacy apps as well as the new UWP platform that Microsoft has made a central platform of Windows 10. The assumption was that this would require a phone running on an Intel Atom processor. Intel’s decision eliminates that option.

Unless Microsoft has some other trick up its sleeve, the most compelling justification for a Win32-based Surface phone appears to have died.«

Kinda big for Intel too; giving up on its mobile ambitions into which it has sunk billions. And for Acer and Lenovo, which has relied on Intel chips (and subsidies) for its mobile effort.
link to this extract


What Happened to Google Maps? » Justin O’Beirne

Engrossing look at how Google Maps represents its content, and how it has changed:

»Let’s take a closer look at a couple of areas within the Bay Area.

First, the Pittsburg / Antioch area:

2010 – Cities, but No Roads. Pittsburg and Antioch are shown — but how to get there? No roads are shown that go to Pittsburg and Antioch.

2016 – Roads, but No Cities. Roads leading to Pittsburg and Antioch are shown — but Pittsburg and Antioch aren’t labeled. Why travel on those roads? Where do they go?

On the 2010 map, Pittsburg and Antioch are what cartographers call “Orphan Cities”. That is, they’re cities that lack connections to the rest of the road network.

A similar situation exists with Santa Cruz:

2010 – Santa Cruz, but No Roads. Santa Cruz is shown, but it’s orphaned (i.e., there are no roads going to it).

2016 – Roads, but No Santa Cruz. Four different roads leading into Santa Cruz are shown — but Santa Cruz isn’t.

On either map, it’s not immediately clear how to travel between San Francisco (or any other Bay Area city) and Santa Cruz.

See the problem?

Both maps, the one from 2010 and the one from 2016, have a similar issue: a lack of balance.

«

Would love to see a similar treatment for Apple Maps.
link to this extract


Google faces first EU fine in 2016 with no deal on cards: sources » Reuters

Foo Yun Chee:

»Google is likely to face its first European Union antitrust sanction this year, with little prospect of it settling a test case with the bloc’s regulator over its shopping service, people familiar with the matter said.

There are few incentives left for either party to reach a deal in a six-year dispute that could set a precedent for Google searches for hotels, flights and other services and tests regulators’ ability to ensure diversity on the Web.

Alphabet Inc’s Google, which was hit by a second EU antitrust charge this month for using its dominant Android mobile operating system to squeeze out rivals, shows little sign of backing down after years of wrangling with European authorities.

Several people familiar with the matter said they believe that after three failed compromise attempts since 2010, Google has no plan to try to settle allegations that its Web search results favor its own shopping service, unless the EU watchdog changes its stance.

«

The fines could be very big, up to 10% of global revenues – or just a slap on the wrist. How does Margrethe Vestager determine how big to make them?
link to this extract


Journalism professor will go to war for free speech, as long as it doesn’t mock him » Gawker

JK Trotter:

»the ever-present possibility that certain people might mistake a satire for reality is the very thing that makes satire funny. As Ken White, [a] First Amendment lawyer, observed, “The joke is not only at the expense of Jeff Jarvis. The joke is, in part, at the expense of people who read carelessly.”

Esquire, of all magazines, should know this. It frequently traffics in satirical articles, and was even sued a few years ago over a piece mocking the notorious birther Joseph Farah. (The magazine fought the lawsuit, and won.) So it is particularly remarkable that the magazine’s executives, in complying with Jarvis’s demands, have effectively endorsed his misunderstanding of satire. It is far more hypocritical and troubling, however, that a person of Jarvis’s position and influence would ever demand the piece’s removal in the first place.

Jarvis is a public figure who has built his reputation in part on his aggressive advocacy for journalists’ First Amendment rights, as well as his strong belief that a culture of free speech is a necessary component of any functioning political system.

«

This is a terrific essay by Trotter, and it does point up the essential contradiction of someone who (among other things) insists that Google’s search results should be sacrosanct against “a European court’s insane and dangerous ruling [to] allow people to demand that links to content they don’t like about themselves be taken down” demanding that content they don’t like not about themselves be taken down.
link to this extract


Apple beats Microsoft at their own game while Amazon primes the low end of the tablet market » IDC

»Slate tablets continued their decline while still accounting for 87.6% of all shipments. More importantly, the slate tablet segment has become synonymous with the low-end of the market. While this may bode well for vendors like Amazon that rely on hardware sales to increase their ecosystem size, it has not helped vendors who rely solely on greater margins for hardware sales. Meanwhile, detachables experienced triple-digit year-over-year growth on shipments of more than 4.9m units, an all-time high in the first quarter of a calendar year.

“Microsoft arguably created the market for detachable tablets with the launch of their Surface line of products,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. “With the PC industry in decline, the detachable market stands to benefit as consumers and enterprises seek to replace their aging PCs with detachables. Apple’s recent foray into this segment has garnered them an impressive lead in the short term, although continued long-term success may prove challenging as a higher entry price point staves off consumers and iOS has yet to prove its enterprise-readiness, leaving plenty of room for Microsoft and their hardware partners to reestablish themselves.”

«

The suggestion is that Apple sold more than 2m large iPad Pros (the 9.7in iPad Pro wasn’t released until the end of the quarter) and Microsoft fewer than 2m Surface Pros. And also that there’s no profit left in the low-end “slate” tablet market, if there was any before.
link to this extract


The end of a mobile wave » Benedict Evans

Evans notes that we’ve hit the end of the “which ecosystem will win?” (answer: both) challenge, and now we have a free-for all among Android/AOSP offerings:

»coming from the other end of the spectrum, mobile operators are increasing buying in a selection of low-end smartphones than they sell (generally unsubsidised on prepay) under their own brand. Sometimes these have operator apps preloaded (if they’ve not given up on that yet), sometimes not. One could argue that the value being added here is really only distribution, and so one might see other companies with distribution getting into this, such as mass-market retailers. Some of these have already experimented with Android tablets, with mixed results (as of course they did with MVNOs).

This is all rather like the PC clone market of the 1980s – hundreds of undifferentiated companies fighting it out to sell commodity computers built with commodity components running a commodity operating system (though those companies mainly made the PCs themselves, where many phone brands do not). That world in due course led to companies like Dell – people who embraced the volume, low-margin commodity model and found an angle of their own. We’re starting to see equivalent model-creation now.

«

link to this extract


YouTube: ‘No other platform gives as much money back to creators’ » The Guardian

Christophe Müller of Youtube:

»Just this month, a funny video of a Ben Affleck interview helped propel Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence to the Top 10 Hot Rock Songs chart 50 years after it was released.

All of this is possible because our technology, Content ID, automates rights management. Only 0.5% of all music claims are issued manually; we handle the remaining 99.5% with 99.7% accuracy. And today, fan-uploaded content accounts for roughly 50% of the music industry’s revenue from YouTube.

The next claim we hear is that we underpay compared to subscription services such as Spotify. But that argument confuses two different services: music subscriptions that cost £10 a month versus ad-supported music videos. It’s like comparing what a black cab driver earns from fares to what they earn showing ads in their taxi.

So let’s try a fair comparison, one between YouTube and radio.

«

It’s all radio’s fault!
link to this extract


How to use Workflow for iOS when you don’t know where to start » iMore

Federico Viticci:

»Workflow is the most powerful app on my iPhone and iPad. I wouldn’t be able to work without it, and, almost two years after its release, I’m still discovering its infinite potential.

Whether it’s sending a message to a group of people or organizing documents, you’ve likely come across a task on your iPhone or iPad that you’d like to speed up. Our iOS devices have evolved into powerful modern computers, but there are still some areas where we can be slowed down by app limitations, or, more simply, by the tedious process of performing the same task over and over.

Thankfully, we have a solution to this: automation. And when it comes to automating tasks on iOS, Workflow is the undisputed king. Learning to master Workflow is the first step to living an efficient, productive life on iOS, and it’s how I’ve been working on my iPad for years now.

«

Viticci isn’t just saying that; he runs macstories.net, and he really does use his iPad for absolutely everything except podcasting. I’ve had Workflow for ages, but struggled with its lack of declarative structure; Viticci’s explanation is great. (It would be great to be able to simulate Workflow tasks on OSX and then export them to iOS.)
link to this extract


No time to panic as one quarter shows minor dip in smartphone sales » Communities Dominate Brands

Tomi Ahonen on why talk of “peak smartphone” after stalled growth in Q1 is wrong, wrong, wrong:

»it is a superficial view of the industry without understanding two aspects of it. The first was the pent-up demand of the 6 series of iPhone that created a one-off surge of phablet-screen-size iPhone sales – last year. Because iPhone owners had seen rival smartphones issue phablets for years, they waited and finally when Apple did the iPhone 6 and 6+ that created a one-time surge in iPhone sales pushing Apple in 2014 Q4 Christmas sales and 2015 Q1 January-March sales of the total smartphone market to an exceptionally high level. It was a surge, a peak in iPhone sales which is not normal (there is a normal level of iPhone jump in sales any other year at that time).

That means, that last year Q1, January-March 2015, was at an artificially high level – see how much higher Apple’s iPhone market share was Q1 of last year (was 16% in Q1 of 2014, surged to 18% in 2015 and returned to 15% now). That was not normal market wars where one brand gains and another loses. It was Apple loyalists buying the long-awaited phablet-screen size iPhone 6 and 6+ which created that surge. Because of Q1 of last year being so high, thus the normal [sequential from Q4] decline of Q1 meant, that it now produced that one-off dip in the Year-on-Year smartphone market size. Also note, that ‘loss’ of 2% now is exactly the rise of 2% that Apple gained for 2015 that same quarter, when their phablet surge happened.

«

Yup, that makes perfect sense. China stuttered, as did the US and Europe, but smartphones replacing featurephones is a train running down a hill. (Side note: I’ve replaced the words that Ahonen put IN CAPITALS with lowercase, as it makes no difference to the sense, and a lot to whether he’s YELLING in your EAR.)
link to this extract


LG Electronics profit growth powered by TV business » WSJ

Min-Jeong Lee:

»LG executives are banking on a turnaround at the company’s mobile business after three straight quarters of operating losses, spurred by sales of its new G5 smartphone.

LG introduced the G5 phone, which comes with a modular body that allows users to easily swap in accessories, to a warm reception in February, fueling expectations the new smartphone will be a hit.

LG expects to ship three million units of the G5 in the second quarter. Executives say the phone is on track to outpace the G3 model, released two years ago, which has been one of the company’s best-sellers. LG has shipped 1.6 million units of the G5, compared with 900,000 units during the first month of the G3’s release.

But the new phone comes at one of the toughest times in the smartphone market, which is facing waning global demand. Total smartphone shipments fell 3% to 335 million units in the first quarter from a year ago, which was the first ever decline in shipments since the advent of smartphones, research firm Strategy Analytics said Thursday.

“There’s no promise the [strong] profits will stay where they are given the dent in overall demand and stiff competition,” Greg Roh, an analyst with HMC Investment Securities in Seoul, said in a recent note to clients.

«

LG executives have been banking on a turnaround at the company’s mobile business for ages. It keeps not happening. Shipments, of course, aren’t the same as sales. And LG’s mobile business has actually made a loss for four straight quarters, not three.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Google rehires Moto chief, Esquire’s satire #fail, play the woman card!, Facebook’s video problem, and more


Heard of the Oppo N3? Millions of people in China have. But research companies disagree over how many million. Photo by TechStage on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Low in sugar and salt. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Q1 2016: top ten Chinese brands capture 33% of global smartphone market » Counterpoint Technology

»• Smartphone shipments reached 344 million units in Q1 2016 with flat growth compared to last year as the market slowed down considerably

• 3 out of 4 mobile phones shipped on the planet now is a smartphone

• The slowdown can be attributed to higher sell-in during 4Q 2015 and weaker demand in markets such as Brazil, China, Indonesia and parts of Europe.

• This is the first time ever since the launch of smartphone, the segment has seen 0% growth, signaling the key global scale players need to invigorate sales with more exciting products and pricing schemes.

«

What’s odd is that IDC has OPPO shipping 18.5m phones; Counterpoint, just 13.3m. That’s a really big difference. Strategy Analytics, another research company, says Oppo shipped 15.5m.

Clearly, something’s wrong here. Given that research companies have to rely, to some extent, on what companies tell them, is there room for Oppo to .. nudge its figures along?
link to this extract


Venezuela doesn’t have enough money to pay for its money » Bloomberg

Andrew Rosati:

»In late 2015, the [Venezuela] central bank more than tripled its original order, offering tenders for some 10.2 billion bank notes, according to industry sources.

But currency companies were worried. According to company documents, De La Rue began experiencing delays in payment as early as June. Similarly, the bank was slow to pay Giesecke & Devrient and Oberthur Fiduciaire. So when the tender was offered, the government only received about 3.3 billion in bids, bank documents show.

“Initially, your eyes grow as big as dish plates,” said one person familiar with matter. “An order big enough to fill your factory for a year, but do you want to completely expose yourself to a country as risky as Venezuela?”

Further complicating matters is the sheer amount of bills needed for basic transactions. Venezuela’s largest bill, the 100-bolivar note, today barely pays for a loose cigarette at a street kiosk.

«

Did even Zimbabwe ever have this problem?
link to this extract


Google hires Rick Osterloh as SVP for new unified hardware division » Re/code

Mark Bergen and Ina Fried on the hiring of Rick Osterloh, formerly president of Motorola (acquired by and then dumped by Google):

»For years, Google has struggled to get sure footing on its various hardware initiatives — moving delicately to handle partners and, at times, deliver products that consumers actually use. When one of its hardware chiefs, Regina Dugan, who ran its Advanced Technology and Project group, departed for Facebook, we reported that Google was plotting a hardware shake-up.

Here it is now. Osterloh will now oversee Google’s Nexus devices. His new hardware division also includes a suite of products called the “living room,” demonstrating Google’s priority on owning that space.

«

Lots of things here. Osterloh will be in charge of Nexus (phones), Chromecast, consumer hardware (laptops), OnHub (router), ATAP (Project Ara) and – wait for it – Google Glass, which Tony Fadell at Nest had been an adviser to. (He remains an adviser.)

So here’s the setup now. Fadell isn’t going to drive Glass any more; and Nest is consumer hardware, just outside the main Google division. Won’t it get folded into Osterloh’s division now? Which leaves Fadell usurped.

Give it 18 months and see if Fadell’s still there.
link to this extract


Why Esquire removed its funny @ProfJeffJarvis post » NY Mag

Brian Feldman:

»If you’re the kind of person whose job, or, worse, interests lead you to read a lot of very similar (but actually earnest) essays on Medium about the future of technology, media, tech media, media tech, disruption, or innovation, the Esquire post was a funny bit of satire. The Esquire piece included “thinkfluencer” gibberish like:

»

The Innovation Party will be phablet-first, and communicate only via push notifications to smartphones. The only deals it cuts will be with Apple and Google, not with special interests. We will integrate natively with iOS and Android, and spread the message using emojis and GIFs, rather than the earth-killing longform print mailers of yesteryear.

«

The byline on the piece was “Prof. Jeff Jarvis.” Here’s where it got tricky: “Prof. Jeff Jarvis” isn’t former Entertainment Weekly editor and well-known future-of-media pontificator Jeff Jarvis. Rather, it’s a character developed in a parody Twitter account run by Bradbury. Well-known in certain media circles, @ProfJeffJarvis initially satirized the thoughts of Jarvis himself before growing into a more general and very funny riff on the pie-in-the-sky gambits of new media.

«

I do feel sympathetic to (the real) Jarvis: this would be infuriating. Feldman (and Jarvis) makes the point that people don’t get context; most wouldn’t realise that it wasn’t the real Jarvis.

I feel Bradbury could easily tweak the name of his character, and keep tweaking it – ProfJaffJervis, ProfJoeJervis, ProfJayJorving, and so on, until it’s some distance from where it started. That would give everyone a clean way out.
link to this extract


With Facebook video, the aggregators are winning » Digiday

Sahil Patel:

»[The highly popular Facebook video page run by] Vlechten met Daan insists it has the rights to all its content. But that’s not always the case. Funny Videos, Uber Humor and Funk You Entertainment have been singled out by content owners, speaking on the condition of anonymity to Digiday, as Facebook “freebooters.” (None of the channels responded to requests for comment.)

“It’s fraud and it’s hard to tell how big of a problem it is. Some of these pages are not pages you normally see on Facebook — and there are a lot of them out there,” said one publishing executive. “We’ve even seen stuff pop up on our friends and family’s news feeds without our name on it, and then they’ll share it with us and say, ‘Hey, this would be great for you.’”

With no steady ad system in place on Facebook, publishers have been willing to give the platform some slack as it tries to weed out the freebooters. But now that Facebook has loosened its grip on branded content, the issue becomes more immediate.

“The danger of the aggregations is that down the road it leads to monetization complexities,” said Katzeff. “You can’t monetize content that you don’t own unless you have some type of agreement that allows you to do that — and you certainly can’t monetize content that you put on your channel in an unauthorized fashion.”

«

Rather than “certainly can’t” in that last sentence, probably better to substitute “shouldn’t but probably will until forcibly stopped”.

Oh, and these “freebooters” are the aggregators against whom the big media companies seeking to monetise their video are going to be fighting.
link to this extract


Play the ‘woman card’ and reap these ‘rewards’! » The Washington Post

Alexandra Petri:

»“Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card,” Trump said Tuesday night, after winning 5 primaries.

Ah yes, the woman’s card.

I have been carrying one of these for years, proudly.

It is great. It entitles you to a sizable discount on your earnings everywhere you go (average 21%, but can be anywhere from 9% to 37%, depending on what study you’re reading and what edition of the Woman Card you have.) If you shop with the Woman Card at the grocery, you will get to pay 11% more for all the same products as men, but now they are pink.

Hook up the Woman Card to your TV and you will get a barrage of commercials telling you that you did something wrong with your face and must buy ointment immediately so as not to become a Hideous Crone. Also, you are now expected to spend your whole life removing hair from your body, except for the areas of your body where your hair must be long and luxurious. (Do not get these two areas confused!)

«

Satire so hot it burns, burns, burns.
link to this extract


AdMop vs Springer — our story » Medium

Vikram Kriplaney and Sebastian Vieira built a free, then paid-for adblocker for iOS 9:

»Axel Springer says that users are not free to see editorial content without ads, and we are violating their copyright because we replace the ads with something else. Despite the fact that bild.de shows a landing page which forces the user to buy a subscription or deactivate the ad blocker.

Their real foe is Eyeo GmbH, which has already won six cases. They are not without controversy, since they sell whitelisting. By defeating us and other indie developers, Axel Springer is building a case for the final ruling against Eyeo GmbH.

Firefox, Asus, Opera… everybody is doing ad blocking now.

Axel springer went as far as going against a youtuber because he gave instructions to how to disable bild.de’s anti-ad-blocking technology

It seems that if you do something that Axel Springer does not like, you are doing something illegal.

«

link to this extract


Warrants served in probe stemming from San Bernardino attack » Associated Press

Why not a headline with something like DRAMA OVER TERROR SHOOTERS? Read on:

»Three people connected to one of the San Bernardino shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook, have been arrested in a marriage fraud conspiracy, including his brother and sister-in-law, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The third person arrested is the wife of Enrique Marquez Jr., a friend of Farook’s who has been charged for his alleged role in aiding the violence, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The two women arrested are Russian immigrants.

Prosecutors say the three participated in a marriage fraud conspiracy that involved lying under oath to obtain immigration benefits.

«

Oh, screw it. The San Bernadino killers weren’t terrorists acting with Isis; they were just a couple of idiots acting alone.
link to this extract


What voice commands & queries do people use Google Now for on Android Wear smartwatches ? » London SEO

“C Byrne”:

»To use Google Now on a smartwatch you say “OK Google”… and then your watch is listening. Wow! Now that is really creepy! You can use your voice with Android smartwatches to do things like search Google for information, get travel directions, and to create personal reminders. For example, you can say “Ok Google where’s the nearest grocery store?” to find grocery stores near you . There are commands and queries unique to Google Now on Android Wear smartwatches e.g. “what’s my heart rate?” (which also may be a normal search query)…

…Based on the phrases (including those below) in my research Google Keyword Planner reported that around 67% were from mobile devices with full browsers – this may be distorted by the inclusion of the phrase “OK google” for comparison.

«

The numbers seem pretty low – though there are fewer than 4m Android Wear devices in use, by my own calculations.
link to this extract


Getty accuses Google of ‘promoting piracy’ » FT.com

Christian Oliver:

»In its complaint [to the European Commission’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager], Getty argues that Google abused its dominance of image searches to change “drastically” the way that it presented Getty’s photographs after January 2013, by displaying them in a high resolution and large format. Before that date, they had only been shown in image searches as low-resolution thumbnails.

Yoko Miyashita, Getty’s general counsel, argued that this new display diverted customers away from her company’s website, where customers would pay for them, and deterred customers from ever leaving Google’s platforms.

She said this “promoted piracy, resulting in widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates”.

Getty said that it raised its concerns with Google three years ago but Google had replied that Getty should either accept its new presentation of images or opt out of image search, in effect becoming invisible on the web.

Ms Miyashita said this was not a “viable choice” given the importance of Google to navigating the internet.

Getty added that Google was threatening the livelihoods of 200,000 contributors who relied on the company’s business model to make a living. “By standing in the way of a fair market place for images, Google is threatening innovation and jeopardising artists’ ability to fund the creation of important future works,” Ms Miyashita said.

Getty said its web traffic collapsed immediately in 2013 after the changes implemented by google.com and google.co.uk. However, traffic remained robust on the French and German Google sites, which did not implement the display changes in January 2013.

«

Watermarking might work; quite how Google can avoid complaints about copyright is puzzling. And who knew that there were 200,000 contributors to Getty?
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: infected airplanes, Samsung gets VR-y, the real counterfeiters, Youtube’s unstoppable ads, and more


Facial recognition is being used for unsavoury purposes in Russia. (This is an example from Iran, at SXSW.) Photo by TheSeafarer on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 9 links for you. Suits you. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Europe’s web privacy rules: bad for Google, bad for everyone » NYTimes.com

Daphne Keller and Bruce Brown on the “right to be forgotten” [more correctly, “delisted from search”] laws in Europe, which now applies to google.com accessed inside Europe:

»News outlets should have particular cause for alarm about geo-blocking. Journalists rely on global networks to investigate and report on international stories, like the recent Panama Papers revelations. They themselves are often the first targets when governments seek to control the flow of information to their citizens. Protection exists in European Union privacy law for journalistic activities, so the news media is not directly in the cross hairs of the “right to be forgotten.” But American news organizations have faced libel actions in hostile foreign courts — and when plaintiffs start asking for geo-blocking in those cases, journalists will be on the front lines.

Privacy is a real issue, and shouldn’t be ignored in the Internet age. But applying those national laws to the Internet needs to be handled with more nuance and concern. These developments should not be driven only by privacy regulators. State departments, trade and justice ministries and telecom regulators in France and other European countries should be demanding a place at the table. So should free-expression advocates.

One day, international agreements may sort this all out. But we shouldn’t Balkanize the Internet in the meantime. Once we’ve erected barriers online, we might not be able to tear them down.

«

There’s a wonderful unspoken cultural imperialism about this approach: whatever the prevailing thought in the US is about [topic], well, that should be the approach to [topic] everywhere. Applying US laws to the internet is just as misguided as applying any other national laws. The Panama Papers is a complete red herring in this context.

You might wonder if Keller and Brown are unaware of their imperial approach. Keller, as it happens, used to be a lawyer at Google.
link to this extract


Uh-oh, Apple — Samsung has a bona fide ecosystem around virtual reality » Re/code

Ina Fried:

»For a long time, Samsung’s phones have gone head to head with the iPhone, but when it came to having an ecosystem of different devices, Apple was the hands-down winner.

Sure, Samsung had its own tablets and watches, but it was Apple that was able to build loyalty, convincing customers to make purchase after purchase.

With virtual reality, though, Samsung is off to the early lead. Alongside Sunday’s debut of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge at the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, the company is announcing the Gear 360 — a consumer camera for capturing virtual-reality content. That completes the VR circle, with its Gear VR headset, already the most accessible way to consumer virtual-reality content outside of Google’s ultra-cheap cardboard viewer, which is more for getting a taste of VR than long-term consumption.

The Gear 360 isn’t due out until the second quarter — and Samsung won’t say how much the orb will cost — but it looks small, simple and powerful, at least at first glance.

«

VR is coming.
link to this extract


German nuclear plant infected with computer viruses, operator says » Reuters

Christoph Steitz and Eric Auchard:

»Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for Finland-based F-Secure, said that infections of critical infrastructure were surprisingly common, but that they were generally not dangerous unless the plant had been targeted specifically.

The most common viruses spread without much awareness of where they are, he said.

As an example, Hypponen said he had recently spoken to a European aircraft maker that said it cleans the cockpits of its planes every week of malware designed for Android phones. The malware spread to the planes only because factory employees were charging their phones with the USB port in the cockpit.

Because the plane runs a different operating system, nothing would befall it. But it would pass the virus on to other devices that plugged into the charger.

«

Absolutely gobsmacking.
link to this extract


This city embedded traffic lights in the sidewalks so that smartphone users don’t have to look up » The Washington Post

Rick Noack:

»Few nations in the world take red traffic lights more seriously than Germany.

Foreign visitors frequently wonder why crowds of Germans wait for traffic lights to turn green when there are no cars in sight.

That is why officials in the city of Augsburg became concerned when they noticed a new phenomenon: Pedestrians were so busy looking at their smartphones that they were ignoring traffic lights.

The city has attempted to solve that problem by installing new traffic lights embedded in the pavement — so that pedestrians constantly looking down at their phones won’t miss them.

«

(The headline pretty much covers the whole of the story, but there you go.) Cities being redesigned for our devices.
link to this extract


Fantastic fakes: busting a $70m counterfeiting ring » Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Del Quentin Wilber:

»By the time Gaab began his investigation in 2012, the Secret Service had linked at least 10 different versions to the same family of fake $50s and $100s. The margins were impressive. The agency estimated that the counterfeiter sold his initial run to his U.S. distributors for 10 percent of their face value. The distributors then dealt their haul to middlemen for 25¢ to 35¢ on the dollar. By the time they reached the person passing the bills at Walmart or Target, a bogus $100 note was being sold for as much as $65.

«

Another great read from Bloomberg’s team. Bloomberg BW is a print magazine.
link to this extract


Facial recognition service becomes a weapon against Russian porn actresses » Global Voices Advocacy

Kevin Rothrock:

»From the start, FindFace has raised privacy concerns. (Even in his glowing recommendation, [software engineer Andrei] Mima addressed fears that the service further erodes people’s freedoms in the age of the Internet.) In early April, a young artist named Egor Tsvetkov highlighted how invasive the technology can be, photographing random passengers on the St. Petersburg subway and matching the pictures to the individuals’ Vkontakte pages, using FindFace. “In theory,” Tsvetkov told RuNet Echo, this service could be used by a serial killer or a collector trying to hunt down a debtor.”

Hoping to raise concerns about the potential misuses of FindFace, Tsvetkov seems to have inspired a particularly nasty effort to identify and harass Russian women who appear in pornography. On April 9, three days after the media reported on Tsvetkov’s art project, users of the Russian imageboard “Dvach” (2chan) launched a campaign to deanonymize actresses who appear in pornography. After identifying these women with FindFace, Dvach users shared archived copies of their Vkontakte pages, and spammed the women’s families and friends with messages informing them about the discovery.

«

Oh, Russia. But this is how facial recognition systems will be used; this genie just announced its out-of-bottleness.
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New ad format will bring unskippable 6-second ads to YouTube » AndroidAuthority

John Dye:

»Nobody likes ads, but they’re kind of the cost of doing business in a world where we’ve grown accustomed to getting our content for free. Although YouTube has long had ads before videos, Google is pushing out a new ad format called “Bumpers,” which are unskippable 6-second shorts placed in front of videos.

In the Adwords blogpost that announced the format, Product Manager Zach Lupei compares these Bumper ads to video haikus. Current ads placed before videos are often full-length ads that can be skipped after a few seconds. However, these ads have a hard cap of six seconds, making them more like Vine videos than traditional ads. Marketers will have to get pretty clever to squeeze meaningful, worthwhile content into that narrow window of time, so we might actually be getting some creative and hilarious little shorts out of this.

«

“Creative and hilarious”. And unskippable. (Also, I abhor the “hey, I just happened to be passing a keyboard and I kinda wrote this blogpost of no consequence except it fills our ad quota” style of writing.)
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Worldwide smartphone growth goes flat in the first quarter as Chinese vendors churn the top 5 vendor list » IDC

»Vendors shipped a total of 334.9m smartphones worldwide in the first quarter of 2016 (1Q16), up slightly from the 334.3m units in 1Q15, marking the smallest year-over-year growth on record. The minimal growth this quarter is primarily attributed to strong smartphone saturation in developed markets, as well as a year-over-year decline from both Apple and Samsung, the two market leaders.

The biggest change to the market, however, was the addition of lesser-known Chinese brands OPPO and vivo, which pushed out previous fourth and fifth place players Lenovo and Xiaomi, respectively. As the China market matures, the appetite for smartphones has slowed dramatically as the explosion of uptake has passed its peak. In 2013, China’s year-over-year shipment growth was 62.5%; by 2015, it had dropped to 2.5%. Conversely, the average selling price (ASP) for a smartphone in China rose from US$207 in 2013 to US$257 in 2015.

“Along China’s maturing smartphone adoption curve, the companies most aligned with growth are those with products serving increasingly sophisticated consumers. Lenovo benefited with ASPs below US$150 in 2013, and Xiaomi picked up the mantle with ASPs below US$200 in 2014 and 2015. Now Huawei, OPPO, and vivo, which play mainly in the sub-US$250 range, are positioned for a strong 2016,” said Melissa Chau, senior research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. “These new vendors would be well-advised not to rest on their laurels though, as this dynamic smartphone landscape has shown to even cult brands like Xiaomi that customer loyalty is difficult to consistently maintain.”

«

Unless you’re quite into the phone business, you’ve probably never heard of OPPO or vivo before. The erosion of ASP is dramatic too. Which of course is a problem for Apple – even if it’s rising in China. Is there new growth left in the business?
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Apple Music on course to top 20m subs this year as it flies past 13m » Music Business Worldwide

Rhian Jones:

»Apple Music has gained 2 million subscribers since February, surpassing 13 million this month, according to the company.

The latest figures put the Spotify rival on course to top 20m by the end of this year if it continues on its current impressive trajectory – adding a million subscribers per month.

The news was revealed in Apple’s latest earnings report covering its Q2 2016, released yesterday.

Apple Music gained a million subscribers in both January and February this year. Since first arriving on June 30 last year, Apple Music has launched in 113 countries. It’s now available in 58 markets in which Spotify is not – including Russia, China, India and Japan.

Last we heard, from SVP Eddy Cue, the platform’s subscribers went above 11m two months ago.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an earnings call yesterday: “Apple Music continues to grow in popularity, with over 13 million paying subscribers today.

“We feel really great about the early success of Apple’s first subscription business, and our music revenue has now hit an inflection point after many quarters of decline.”

«

Many quarters of what’s that now again? I don’t recall Apple mentioning music revenue declines before.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: China’s coming smartphone crash, Boston Globe v readers, Google Glass is back!, and more

A bucket with ice water: much cheaper, though it doesn’t have Bluetooth. Photo by mediadeo on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam. (If you signed up and didn’t receive, please let me know in the comments here.)

A selection of 9 links for you. They are what they are. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Dark patterns by the Boston Globe » The Rationalist Conspiracy

Alyssa Vance:

»After years of falling revenue, some newspapers have resorted to deception to boost their subscription numbers. These dishonest tactics are sometimes called “dark patterns” – user interfaces designed to trick people.

For example, this is a Boston Globe story on Bernie Sanders:

Before you can read the article, there is a pop-up ad asking you to subscribe. By itself, this is annoying, but not deceptive. The real dark pattern is hidden at the top – the ‘Close’ button (circled in red) uses a very low contrast font, making it hard to see. It’s also in the left corner, not the standard right corner. This makes it likely that users won’t see it, causing them to subscribe when they didn’t have to.

One the ‘Close’ link is clicked, deception continues:

At the bottom, there’s a non-removable, high-contrast banner ad asking for a paid subscription. Again, this is annoying, but honest. However, the circled text “for only 99 cents per week” is not honest. It’s simply a lie, as later pages will show.

«

Turns out that 99c is actually $6.93 per week, and you can only unsubscribe by phone. So wicked.
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The blockchain menu » net.wars

Wendy Grossman:

»The Internet of Things is such an established concept that I’m startled to note that week’s (Lego) prototype was my first. Three cars want to park…somewhere. Their owners have preset the maximum they will pay. The system locates the nearest parking space, and they bid. The winner is directed to the space, and the fee is automatically deducted from the car’s balance. A display showed the auction in real time. All very nice until I injected reality by grabbing a car and plunking it in the space before bidding ended.

“Usurped” the contested space was now tagged. “You’ll be fined,” Consult Hyperion’s demonstrator said. Who will that stop in Manhattan, where friends have missed two successive movie showings because no parking space? This may be an entertaining solution wishing for a problem.

In that, it was not alone at this week’s Tomorrow’s Transactions Forum, Dave Birch’s quirky annual event where ideas about the future of money are smashed together like particles to see what happens.

«

I love the idea of app developers thinking people would be well-behaved and wait for their app to tell them where to park, while Noo Yawkers just PARK THE DAMN CAR THERE IN THE STOOPID SPACE.

But the article is actually about blockchains, which in a similar way are mostly a solution in search of a problem.
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China’s crowded smartphone market heads for an epic shakeout » Bloomberg

David Ramli:

»The startup Dakele looked pretty smart when it released a phone in China four years ago. The market was doubling annually, and the company put brand-name components inside a device that cost a fraction of the iPhone.

That $160 gadget went on sale just four months after Dakele opened its doors, and soon the company, which translates as “Big Cola,” made inroads against Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp. Buzz was building for the Dakele 3 model last year, with online reviews calling it the best Apple Inc. clone.

Then the sizzle started to fizzle. Huawei spent $300 million on marketing, Xiaomi cut prices and clones of the clone appeared. Troubles with a supplier and raising money prompted Dakele to shut down last month—and it likely won’t be alone. China’s herd of 300 phone makers may be halved in 12 months by competition, a sales plateau and economic growth that’s the slowest in a quarter-century, according to executives and analysts.

“The mobile-phone industry changed more quickly and brutally than expected,” Dakele Chief Executive Officer Ding Xiuhong said on his Weibo messaging account. “As a startup, we couldn’t find more strategies and methods to break through.”

«

I can’t decide whether the smartphone market is telescoping a decade of the PC market into two years, or just going through the same as happened in 1985-9 in about the same length of time.
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Kickstarter’s biggest shitshow somehow got even messier » Motherboard

Jaason Koebler:

»A decidedly not chill development for 36,000 Kickstarter backers of the “Coolest Cooler”: Coolest is now considering asking people who haven’t yet received their coolers to pay an additional $97 for “expedited delivery” of the long-past-due all-in-one disaster, a prospect that has allegedly led some backers to threaten Coolest employees.

If you’re not familiar, at the time it launched, the Coolest Cooler was the most popular Kickstarter of all time, raising $13 million. The 55-quart cooler has a built-in blender, a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, a USB charger, and a bottle opener. You can buy one on Amazon, right now, and have it by the weekend if you pay $399.99.

That $399.99 price point is important—when Coolest Cooler was launched on Kickstarter, it cost between $165 and $225, a price its creator Ryan Grepper said in an update to backers was far too low…

…Coolest Cooler doesn’t have money to produce the remaining coolers, which is why it’s selling existing stock on Amazon but not sending them to backers who haven’t yet received the product (the company has delivered about 20,000 coolers to backers, but 36,000 more people are waiting). Reviews of the cooler are mixed — most say that it is indeed cool, but that it is very heavy and isn’t worth $400.

«

I’m trying to imagine a cooler that would be worth $400, even with those add-ons. The article’s comparison with the Welsh drone screwup Zano isn’t right, though; Zano had absurdly inflated claims. This is just poor pricing.
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CDC: two of every five U.S. households have only wireless phones » Pew Research Center

»More Americans than ever have cut the (telephone) cord, but the growth rate of wireless-only households slowed last year.

About two-in-five (41%) of U.S. households had only wireless phones in the second half of 2013, according to a report released today by the National Center for Health Statistics. The center, the statistical arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimated that 39.1% of adults and 47.1% of children lived in wireless-only households.

«

When I noted yesterday that “call mom” had overtaken “call home” as a Google search (hence almost certainly a voice activation), I thought it was because “mom” was likely to be at home. But as was pointed out, there might not be a “home” to call.

(Next up: can we calculate the divorce rate based on the rise of “call mom” v “call dad”?)
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Google Glass startup Augmedix raises $17m from healthcare orgs » Re/code

Mark Bergen:

»The next time you spot a Google Glass in the wild, it might not be on the face of a fervid techie. It might be on your doctor.

Augmedix, one of several startups that formed around the computerized headgear — and kept spinning after the search giant ditched its first attempt — is raising a fresh round of capital to get Google Glass into more health care facilities. The four-year-old startup is part of a wave of Silicon Valley companies trying to tap the massive medical market. It primarily builds software for wearable devices that display electronic health records so that doctors can access them hands-free.

“They’re engaging with patients in front of them,” said CEO Ian Shakil. “In the background, we’re doing all the burdensome work.”

He’s not raising cash from Sand Hill Road. Instead, the $17m strategic investment comes from a quintet of medical institutions.

«

I always thought that Glass’s best use would be inside businesses, not among consumers.
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Apple’s Watch outpaced the iPhone in first year » WSJ

Daisuke Wakabayashi:

»Apple doesn’t disclose sales, but analysts estimate about 12m Watches were sold in year one. At an estimated average price of $500, that is a $6bn business—three times the annual revenue of activity tracker Fitbit Inc.

By comparison, Apple sold roughly 6m iPhones in its first year. As a new entrant, the Watch accounted for about 61% of global smartwatch sales last year, according to researcher IDC.

And yet, there are detractors such as Fred Wilson, co-founder of venture-capital firm Union Square Ventures, in December declared the Watch a “flop.” Mr. Wilson, who owns shares of Fitbit through a fund, had earlier predicted the Watch wouldn’t be a “home run” like the iPad, iPhone and iPod, saying many people wouldn’t want to wear a computer on their wrist.

The Watch has shortcomings. It is slow, with an underpowered processor that is throttled at times to extend the device’s battery life. It lacks mobile and Global Positioning System connections, meaning it must be accompanied by an iPhone, limiting its usefulness as an independent device. The battery needs to be charged every day.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the Watch’s lack of a defining purpose. It does certain things well, such as activity tracking, mobile payments and notifications. But there is no task the Apple Watch handles that can’t be done by an iPhone or a less-expensive activity tracker.

«

The comparison with the first-year iPhone is meaningless – the Watch was released in more places, with more fanfare. Fred Wilson’s criticism, well, would the better metric be what proportion of devices are still in use? How would the Watch do against the Fitbit?

As to “defining purpose” – its purpose so far is to be an adjunct. It does that pretty well; satisfaction is high, according to survey firm Wristly.
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Exclusive: Bangladesh Bank hackers compromised SWIFT software, warning to be issued » Reuters

Jim Finkle:

»The attackers who stole $81m from the Bangladesh central bank probably hacked into software from the SWIFT financial platform that is at the heart of the global financial system, said security researchers at British defense contractor BAE Systems.

SWIFT, a cooperative owned by 3,000 financial institutions, confirmed to Reuters that it was aware of malware targeting its client software. Its spokeswoman Natasha Deteran said SWIFT would release on Monday a software update to thwart the malware, along with a special warning for financial institutions to scrutinize their security procedures.

The new developments now coming to light in the unprecedented cyber-heist suggest that an essential lynchpin of the global financial system could be more vulnerable than previously understood to hacking attacks, due to the vulnerabilities that enabled attackers to modify SWIFT’s client software.

«

Got in via a poorly secured $10 router, got away with $81m, hacked the software the world’s banks rely on. This could be worse, right?
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The secret rules of the internet » The Verge

Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly, with a (quite astoundingly) long piece about the history of content moderation on social networks – if by “history” you mean “starting in 2004”:

»When Dave Willner arrived at Facebook in 2008, the team there was working on its own “one-pager” of cursory, gut-check guidelines. “Child abuse, animal abuse, Hitler,” Willner recalls. “We were told to take down anything that makes you feel bad, that makes you feel bad in your stomach.” Willner had just moved to Silicon Valley to join his girlfriend, then Charlotte Carnevale, now Charlotte Willner, who had become head of Facebook’s International Support Team. Over the next six years, as Facebook grew from less than 100 million users to well over a billion, the two worked side by side, developing and implementing the company’s first formal moderation guidelines.

“We were called The Ninjas,” he said, “mapping the rabbit hole.” Like Mora-Blanco, Willner described how he, Charlotte, and their colleagues sometimes laughed about their work, so that they wouldn’t cry. “To outsiders, that sounds demented,” he said.

Just like at YouTube, the subjectivity of Facebook’s moderation policy was glaring. “Yes, deleting Hitler feels awesome,” Willner recalls thinking. “But, why do we delete Hitler? If Facebook is here to make the world more open,” he asked himself, “why would you delete anything?” The job, he says, was “to figure out Facebook’s central why.”

For people like Dave and Charlotte Willner, the questions are as complex now as they were a decade ago. How do we understand the context of a picture? How do we assign language meaning? Breaking the code for context — nailing down the ineffable question of why one piece of content is acceptable but a slight variation breaks policy — remains the holy grail of moderation.

«

One could pick out any part of this piece. It’s interesting all through. The trouble is it’s so long (around 2,500 words) that you may struggle to find its thread, because there isn’t an actual, progressing, story.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: deeper inside Nest, slower smartphone sales, smaller Yahoo, ransomware spreads further, and more

Fight!

Just another meeting between Nest and Dropcam. Creative Commons-licensed photo by Steve Liddle on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email (though you won’t see any instalments for a week, because I’ll be away). You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 9 links for you. There are no April Fools in this, thank God. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.


Please note: next week The Overspill will be on a spring break.

Service resumes on 11 April.


 

Nest revenue around $340m last year, but budget troubles ahead » Re/code

Mark Bergen with a remarkable scoop:

»Nest generated about $340m in sales last year, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. That’s an impressive figure for a company in the very nascent market of Internet-connected devices.

But it’s below the initial expectations Google had set for Nest when it bought the startup in 2014 for a whopping $3.2bn. The company’s sales performance may face even deeper scrutiny inside Google’s new parent company, Alphabet, where Nest now sits, as the hardware maker faces its most critical year ever.

Nest’s plight is a far cry from two years ago, when it was brought on as one of Google’s biggest acquisitions as a vehicle to compete with Apple in the growing smart-home market. Google also brought on CEO Tony Fadell, a former Apple exec, to inject Google with Apple’s hardware sensibility. But now its future is up in the air, as it’s clearly fallen short of those lofty expectations…

…To keep employees from leaving after the acquisition, Google created a vesting schedule that prevents Nest’s executives from cashing out their shares before a certain date — that date could come as soon as this year. In addition, according to sources, as part of the acquisition, Nest and Google agreed on a sales target for the company: $300m annually.

Two years later, Nest still could not hit that target alone — it did it only after adding sales from Dropcam, which Nest acquired for $555m six months after joining Google.

«

It’s pretty clear from the past week, starting with Reed Albergotti’s amazing piece for The Information, that there’s almost open warfare between Nest and Dropcam. The last detail, about Dropcam making up the sales number, could only have come from a senior Dropcam source who knows the revenues in some detail.

The question now is, what will Larry Page – chief executive of Alphabet, and so Nest – do?

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Gartner says global smartphone sales to only grow 7 per cent in 2016

»Gartner, Inc. said global smartphone sales will for the first time exhibit single-digit growth in 2016. Global smartphone sales are estimated to reach 1.5bn units in 2016, a 7% growth from 2015. The total mobile phone market is forecast to reach 1.9bn units in 2016.

Worldwide combined shipments for devices (PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones) are expected to reach 2.4bn units in 2016, a 0.6% increase from 2015. End-user spending in constant US dollars is estimated to decline by 1.6% year on year…

…”The double-digit growth era for the global smartphone market has come to an end,” said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. “Historically, worsening economic conditions had negligible impact on smartphone sales and spend, but this is no longer the case. China and North America smartphone sales are on pace to be flat in 2016, exhibiting a 0.7% and 0.4% growth respectively.”

While smartphone sales will continue to grow in emerging markets, the growth will slow down. Gartner predicts that, through 2019, 150 million users will delay upgrades to smartphones in emerging Asia/Pacific, until the functionality and price combination of a low-cost smartphone becomes more desirable.

“Prices did not decline enough to drive upgrades from low-end feature phones to low-end smartphones,” said Annette Zimmermann, research director at Gartner. “Vendors were not able to reduce the price of a ‘good enough to use’ smartphone lower than $50.”

«

So $50 seems to be the baseline price that smartphones can’t go below. Still, they’ll make up 79% of sales; that only leaves 400m featurephones to be sold.
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3 in 10 would consider buying an iPhone » Global Web Index

Jason Mander:

»With many seeing Apple’s more affordable iPhone SE handset as an attempt to win new customers in fast-growth markets, today we look at where the iPhone name resonates the most strongly.

Globally, it’s almost 3 in 10 internet users who say they would consider purchasing an iPhone – putting Apple at the top of the table, just ahead of Samsung on 24%.

But split this by country and it’s clear that the iPhone has its biggest appeal in emerging markets. Although as many as 25% in places like the UK and USA as well as 20% in Japan would consider getting one, fast-growth markets occupy 14 of the top 15 slots (including China and India, which are particularly key given their booming numbers of internet users).

«

“Would consider” is a long way from “will buy” which is some distance from “bought”. But it shows Apple’s power as an aspirational brand that it’s emerging markets where people want it.
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Security researchers warn of server-attacking ransomware » Computer Weekly

Warwick Ashford:

»As a growing number of US hospitals report ransomware attacks, researchers are warning of a new strain of ransomware targeting the healthcare sector that attacks servers in order to lock up entire networks.

Unlike most other malware that encrypts data and demands ransom for its release, the Samas strain of ransomware does not rely on user-focused attack vectors such as phishing emails.

Instead, Samas – also known as Samsam and MSIL.B/C – is distributed by compromising servers and using them to move laterally through networks to encrypt and hold multiple data sets to ransom.

«

Interesting evolution of this malware: clearly it has staying power.
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Web scraping to create open data » The Scrapinghub Blog

Lluis Esquerda:

»When I started this project, I sought to make a difference in Barcelona. Now you can find tons of bike sharing apps that use our API on all major platforms. It doesn’t matter that these are not our own apps. They are solving the same problem we were trying to fix, so their success is our success.

Besides popular apps like Moovit or CityMapper, there are many neat projects out there, some of which are published under free software licenses. Ideally, a city council could create a customization of any of these apps for their own use.

Most official applications for bike sharing systems have terrible ratings. The core business of transportation companies is running a service, so they have no real motivation to create an engaging UI or innovate further. In some cases, the city council does not even own the rights to the data, being completely at the mercy of the company providing the transportation service.

When providing public services, city councils and companies often get lost in what they should offer as an aid to the service. They focus on a nice map or a flashy application, rather than providing the data behind these service aids. Maps, apps, and websites have a limited focus and usually serve a single purpose. On the other hand, data is malleable and the purest form of representation. While you can’t create something new from looking and playing with a static map (except, of course, if you scrape it), data can be used to create countless different iterations, help with research. It can even provide a bridge that will allow anyone to participate, improve and build on top of these aids to public services.

«

link to this extract

 


Report: Yahoo’s ad revenue to drop 14 percent this year » Digiday

Jordan Valinsky:

»Yahoo’s ad revenues are forecasted to drop 14% this year while its competitors, including Google and Facebook, are expected to grow.

According to a new eMarketer report on ad spending, Yahoo’s global ad revenues will dip to $2.8 billion this year, down from $3.3bn last year. Its overall share of the ad market will shrink from 2.1% to 1.5%.

That’s more bad news for the Marissa Mayer-led company. In an attempt to cut $400m, Yahoo announced last month that it’s in the process of shuttering offices, slashing 15% of its workforce and is backing away from its once-ambitious content efforts by closing down a number of its verticals, like Travel and Autos. All of this is happening while rumors swirl that Yahoo is considering selling itself.

«

Yahoo is the BlackBerry of the online ad business.
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Why I got rid of Adblock Plus » David Hewson

Hewson is a novelist and journalist:

»Ad blockers take away important revenue streams from companies that need them. Only last week the Independent, where I worked during its launch thirty years ago, shut up shop as a print title. I don’t suggest for one moment it would have survived if ad blockers didn’t exist. But it might have done a little better. The Guardian now, like more and more titles, nags you to turn off its ad blocker these days. Given the phenomenal losses it’s incurring — £53m last year — who can blame it? If things don’t turn round it could be the next to go — and what a loss that would be.

So turning off the ad blocker pays a little towards the news I read for free and I’m happy to go along with that idea. But something else changed my mind too, and it was, oddly enough, a speech by the Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, in which he described ad-blocking as ‘a modern-day protection racket’. Nor is he the only one to think this.

«

Whittingdale’s ire was actually aimed at Eyeo (purveyor of Adblock Plus); there are however other adblocking solutions which don’t use Eyeo’s systems. The problems at The Guardian and The Independent aren’t caused by adblocking, though.
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Where’s the lane? Self-driving cars confused by shabby U.S. roadways » Reuters

Alexandria Sage:

»Volvo’s North American CEO, Lex Kerssemakers, lost his cool as the automaker’s semi-autonomous prototype sporadically refused to drive itself during a press event at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

“It can’t find the lane markings!” Kerssemakers griped to Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was at the wheel. “You need to paint the bloody roads here!”

Shoddy infrastructure has become a roadblock to the development of self-driving cars, vexing engineers and adding time and cost. Poor markings and uneven signage on the 3 million miles of paved roads in the United States are forcing automakers to develop more sophisticated sensors and maps to compensate, industry executives say.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently called the mundane issue of faded lane markings “crazy,” complaining they confused his semi-autonomous cars.

An estimated 65% of U.S. roads are in poor condition, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, with the transportation infrastructure system rated 12th in the World Economic Forum’s 2014-2015 global competitiveness report.

«

Make America Navigable By Autonomous Cars Agai.. um, For The First Time.
link to this extract

 


Citymapper launches seamless routing between cabs and public transit » TechCrunch

Mike Butcher:

»Citymapper is making a significant change to its routing app with the news that it has added what it is calling a “SuperRouter” capability. This effectively combines public transit with cabs to create completely new integrated routes. In simple terms, it means you could ask Citymapper’s app to come up with a route, and it would give you options both a cab service like Uber and a train or tram in a fully integrated route, with all the timetables. That could be transformational for people in cities, and something no other platform has tried to date, as far as we know. The change will apply to every city Citymapper is launched in right now, which includes New York, San Francisco, LA, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Madrid, Tokyo and many other global cities.

In normal circumstances it’s basically impossible to plan a journey across public and private car transport. That leads to what you might call unfair discrimination between these transport modes. But in the 21st century, where private cars can be tracked on a map, there is simply no reason for this separation to exist.

«

None at all! Except that it’s difficult.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Hubspot culture, bad citations, Wikipedia for piracy, how Tay was pre-broken, and more

Who’d have guessed that letting a browser page vibrate your phone could be abused by scammers? Photo by queenkv on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

My year in startup hell at Hubspot » Fortune

Dan Lyons got dumped by Newsweek, having been a journalist for decades, and then as a 50-something joined a Boston startup whose pitch is basically spam people (but never call it spam), created by a co-founder who is only ever referred to by his first name:

»Dharmesh’s culture code incorporates elements of HubSpeak. For example, it instructs that when someone quits or gets fired, the event will be referred to as “graduation.” In my first month at HubSpot I’ve witnessed several graduations, just in the marketing department. We’ll get an email from Cranium saying, “Team, just letting you know that Derek has graduated from HubSpot, and we’re excited to see how he uses his superpowers in his next big adventure!” Only then do you notice that Derek is gone, that his desk has been cleared out. Somehow Derek’s boss will have arranged his disappearance without anyone knowing about it. People just go up in smoke, like Spinal Tap drummers.

Nobody ever talks about the people who graduate, and nobody ever mentions how weird it is to call it “graduation.” For that matter I never hear anyone laugh about HEART or make jokes about the culture code. Everyone acts as if all of these things are perfectly normal.

«

Some people hate Lyons, but he’s never less than incisive to the point of sulphuric.
link to this extract

 


January 2014: potential malicious use of the HTML5 Vibrate API » Terence Eden’s Blog

This was Eden writing just over two years ago:

»There is a new API in town! HTML5 will (soon) let you make the user’s device vibrate. What fun! Obviously, it’s useful for triggering alerts, improved immersivness during gameplay, and all sorts of other fun things like sending Morse Code messages via vibration.

At the moment, Chrome (and other Android browsers) ask for permission before accessing features such as geo-location, camera, address book etc. This is a security measure to prevent your private information leaving your hands without your knowledge.

At the moment, accessing the HTML5 Vibrate API doesn’t trigger an on-screen warning. Its use is seen as pretty innocuous. Because, realistically, the worst it can do is prematurely drain your battery. Right?

I’m not so sure.

«

He was right not to be sure. Comments from this year show that this is indeed being used by scammy ads. (It’s supported on Chrome for desktop and mobile, not on Safari for desktop or mobile; you can check your browser’s capability.
link to this extract

 


Citation, appropriation, and fair use: News Genius picks up again where failures left off » Glenn Fleishman’s Glog

Fleishman points to previous attempts to let people write content on top of other peoples’ work:

»As with many Internet tools created without any forethought about abuse, opting out, and reporting and resolving issues, [News] Genius [which lets people put commentary onto web pages without the consent of the author] seems malicious in absence rather than in intention. As Ella [Dawson] wrote:

»

You can hate-read my content all you want—I know that is a risk of being a person who says things on the Internet. But when you create a tool that pastes commentary directly on top of my work without letting me opt-in and without providing a way for people to turn off the annotation on their pages, you are being irresponsible. You are ignoring the potential your tool has to be abused, and you are not anticipating the real harm your tool can do.

«

Contrast this with Medium’s approach to annotation on Medium’s site. Essay authors can receive public or private notes, and choose which to make public and which to remain private or delete. Commentary on a post, called “responses,” is presented at the end like comments, but each response is a full-fledged Medium post.  (Last year, Medium added the ability for everyone, instead of certain outlets or requiring email, to disable responses to appear linked; they can still be made, they just don’t appear at the end of the referenced post.)

«

Past experience suggests News Genius will die a death; it’s just a question of how long it will take, and how many people will have lousy experiences like Dawson.
link to this extract

 


Wikipedia doesn’t realize it’s the developing world’s internet gatekeeper » Motherboard

Jason Koebler:

»If you’re just catching up, Angolans are using free access to Wikipedia and Facebook to trade copyrighted movies, music, and television shows, a development that is decidedly against Wikipedia’s rules. The product is called Wikipedia Zero, which “zero rates” all data going to and from Wikipedia websites from mobile phone users in 64 developing countries, meaning the customer doesn’t pay any money for it. In Angola, 50mb of mobile data normally costs $2.50; the median annual salary is $720.

At first glance, giving people in developing nations unlimited access to Wikipedia or Facebook’s Free Basics program seems like a no-brainer. Some access is better than no access, the thinking goes, and Wikimedia, as a nonprofit corporation focused on spreading knowledge, has gotten less public flak than Facebook has for Free Basics, which critics say serves only to indoctrinate the developing world into Facebook’s ecosystem. But the situation in Angola shows that there are problems with zero-rating that Wikimedia’s nonprofit status and knowledge-sharing mission can’t solve.

«

link to this extract

 


Land Registry faces privatisation » The Guardian

Heather Stewart, Hilary Osborne and Rowena Mason:

»The Land Registry is being put for up for sale less than two years after the Liberal Democrats blocked previous plans for a £1bn-plus privatisation.

Sajid Javid, the business secretary, faced immediate criticism for announcing the selloff of the 150-year-old agency – which maintains records on the ownership of land and property across England and Wales – just as the Easter break was about to begin.

Union leaders criticised what they called the “cynical” timing. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: “Homebuyers and owners rely on the Land Registry to provide an impartial professional service and it must remain under public control, free from any profit motive and conflict of interest.

«

In the UK, sales of properties and land must be registered with Land Registry. Privatising it would create a private monopoly with the force of law. This would create a company that could raise fees on any product and which would not be answerable to Freedom of Information requests.

This is an unbelievably stupid idea. I’m thus not surprised that Savid Javid is backing it.
link to this extract

 


Fly-eye phones are coming » Kevin Marks

Written in January, and increasingly relevant:

»the cameras built into phones have reached the limits of useful resolution, and the differences in responsiveness have been competed away too. The next step will be multiple cameras on each side of the phone. I expect we’ll first see 2 cameras at opposite ends of the phone, so you can take stereoscopic images and videos with natural eye spacing.

However, having simultaneous spaced images means you can extract 3d information from the photo – Google’s camera app has done this for a while but you need to pan up and down. This means you can change depth of field synthetically to give nicer images by blurring unwanted foreground or background details out. This also means you can more easily compensate for lens distortion, making faces less spherical looking in close-ups.You can even reconstruct 3d objects, scanning smaller ones, or panning around a room to derive a more accurate 3d model.

Once you have an accurate 3d model of the room, doing Augmented Reality becomes much more practical – you can place elements on the walls or floors, and have them pass behind and in front of object in a more realistic fashion. Think of the gratuitous effects Snapchat can do with that – 3d halos, birds flying around your head.

«

Look what Snapchat can already do with face recognition (Face Swap) and you get an inkling.
link to this extract

 


TayAndYou – toxic before human contact » Smerity.com:

Stephen Merity argues, very convincingly, that Microsoft’s Tay going haywire wasn’t shocking, surprising or unpredictable at all:

»The entire situation was made worse by a few factors:

• TayAndYou would repeat phrases uttered to it, a trivial attack vector
• The facial recognition on images included a small number of utterances, another trivial attack vector that could be gamed for negative results
• TayAndYou produced over 96,000 tweets in a single day, meaning little to no quality oversight would be in place – if there were any potentially insulting responses they were near guaranteed to be found

Was implementing a filter for swearing out of scope..? To be fair, the bot would still find something insulting to say but I’m certain the majority of worst cases would be flagged.

Even if filtering on the generation end was considered too much, the training data shouldn’t have been toxic. Maybe at least filter the training data for anything discussing Hitler. If a PR department wouldn’t want their humans tweeting about Hitler, I’ve no clue why you’d want a bot to.

«

Meanwhile, Microsoft is ever so ever so sorry.

If you’re working in AI/deep learning, Merity’s blog is worth rummaging through.
link to this extract

 


Donald Trump will win in a landslide. *The mind behind ‘Dilbert’ explains why. » The Washington Post

Michael Cavna:

»[Scott] Adams, in other words, believes that Trump himself has turned the campaign game around. On the stump, the real-estate mogul is not running on the knowledge of his numbers or the dissection of the data. He is running on our emotions, Adams says, and sly appeals to our own human irrationality. Since last August, in fact, when many were calling Trump’s entry a clown candidacy, the “Dilbert” cartoonist was already declaring The Donald a master in the powers of persuasion who would undoubtedly rise in the polls. And last week, Adams began blogging about how Trump can rhetorically dismantle Clinton’s candidacy next.

Adams, mind you, is not endorsing Trump or supporting his politics. (“I don’t think my political views align with anybody,” he tells The Post’s Comic Riffs, “not even another human being.”) And he is not saying that Trump would be the best president. What the Bay Area-based cartoonist recognizes, he says, is the careful art behind Trump’s rhetorical techniques. And The Donald, he says, is playing his competitors like a fiddle — before beating them like a drum.

«

It’s about irrationality. And people are irrational, no matter what they might think. (I’m very much hoping this is wrong.)
link to this extract

 


The readers’ editor on closing comments below the line » The Observer

Stephen Pritchard is the readers’ editor of The Observer, the Sunday sibling to The Guardian:

»While there is a general desire to open comments on as many subjects as possible, moderators are made aware in advance of opinion pieces that are likely to need careful handling.

Last weekend, after consultation, comments were delayed on several Observer articles, including Nick Cohen on becoming a Jew, Victoria Coren Mitchell on the Adam Johnson underage sex case and Barbara Ellen on Jamie Oliver’s advocacy of breastfeeding.

Comments opened once moderators were in place, but within minutes antisemites and Holocaust deniers were hounding Cohen, apologists for sex with teenagers were appearing in the Coren Mitchell thread and misogynists were busy insulting Ellen. It had to stop.

The Telegraph is in the process of ending commentary on its site. That’s not being proposed here, but editors need to think harder about when it would be wise to switch off the ability to comment if a subject is likely to attract so much rage that a mature conversation becomes impossible. It devalues our journalism and offends our readers.

«

Fewer open comment threads also means less moderation, which saves money. But I think this is a broader trend: general news sites will have fewer and fewer open comment threads. It’s just not worth the trouble. Speaking of which…
link to this extract

 


Public Access: we’re shutting down our comments … see you next week » Engadget

Here’s Amber Bouman at tech site Engadget:

»The thing is, we like having a comments section. It gives our readers a place to share their experiences, point out mistakes we’ve made, offer up different perspectives and provide more information. Our comments section can be an incredible place to visit, and we value that our readers take the time out of their day (often repeatedly) to participate. But we can’t take pride in a comment system that isn’t offering you the features you need to participate; that runs amok with racist, sexist or homophobic slurs and threats; or that takes joy in in-fighting and provoking fights.

A quality comments section should make it easy for users to contribute. A good comments section has users who feel a sense of duty and kinship, who act as a community. An exceptional comments section informs its readers, corrects authors and provides worthwhile insights in a polite and constructive manner.

«

It can be done; I think you make people pay to be commenters, and revoke that – without refund – if they cross the line.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none specified.

Start up: Samsung’s US chance, Google’s RTBF extension, hacking Isil, bionic feels!, and more

The world of professional bridge is struggling with accusations of cheating. But how do you prevent people communicating in code, if they can communicate? Photo by jaxx2kde on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 9 links for you. Effortless. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Sizing the US opportunity for Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 edge » Kantar Worldpanel

Carolina Milanesi:

»By the end of January [2016], the Galaxy S6 represented only 9% of Samsung’s installed base in the US, and the Galaxy S6 edge a mere 2%. The Galaxy S5 remained the most popular device in the installed base, representing 21.5% followed by the Galaxy S4 – now a three-year-old phone – at 14.2%.

Between February 2015 and January 2016, only 26% of Samsung smartphones in use were upgraded. This creates a huge opportunity for Samsung to persuade consumers it is time to upgrade to the new devices.

Of the 26% of Samsung devices that were upgraded, the greatest percentage (27.5%) chose the Galaxy S5, 26.2% the Galaxy S6: 9.4% the Galaxy Note 4: 7.9% the Galaxy Note 5: and 5% the Galaxy S6 edge. The rest of the upgrades were divided among 33 different models, demonstrating how wide the Samsung offering remains in the US market, despite all the attention being given to its flagship products.

Only 3.6% of current Galaxy S6 owners said they are planning to upgrade their smartphone in the next 12 months. This should not worry Samsung, however, as we have shown that a significant opportunity remains among owners of older phones, making them a much easier target for the Korean brand.

«

Suggests that the S6 and S6 Edge really weren’t a big hit, as the S4 has a higher share than both together.
link to this extract

 


Dirty hands » The New Yorker

David Owen, with a fantastic piece about cheating in the world of professional bridge:

»When Brogeland made his first announcement, his evidence against Fisher and Schwartz consisted solely of what he believed to be a collection of suspicious hands; he still didn’t know how they might be exchanging information. A few days later, he created a new Web site, called Bridgecheaters.com, and posted three YouTube videos from the 2014 European Team Championships, which Fisher and Schwartz’s team had won. Each video had been shot from a camera mounted near the table. It showed all four players, as well as the table paraphernalia of modern tournament bridge: four bidding boxes (containing each player’s pre-printed bidding cards); a felt-covered bidding tray (on which the players place bidding cards before sliding it back under the screen); and a plastic duplicate board (a flat, rectangular box in which four pre-dealt hands have been delivered to the table). Brogeland asked for help from other players, and the search for evidence immediately became a collaborative international project.

«

As you read it, you realise that every human element in bridge – speaking, coughing, card movement, any physical movement – makes it feasible to create a code to cheat; the only way to prevent it would be to have people playing via screen, without words or gestures. Which would take away everything that might make it fun.
link to this extract

 


Google finally extends right-to-be-forgotten rules to all search sites, including dot-com » Ars Technica UK

Kelly Fiveash:

»Google has responded to European Union data watchdogs by expanding its right-to-be-forgotten rules to apply to its search websites across the globe.

In 2014, search engines were ordered by Europe’s top court to scrub certain listings on their indexes. Google—which commands roughly 90 percent of the search market in the EU—claimed at the time that such measures amounted to censorship of the Internet.

However, the landmark European Court of Justice ruling in fact stated that search engines were required to remove links that are old, out of date or irrelevant, and—most significantly of all—not found to be in the public interest.

Indeed, the right-to-be-forgotten may seem evocative to privacy campaigners, but as the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office has previously stated, “there is no absolute right [under the ruling] to have information removed.”

«

Google’s blogpost on the topic says “We’re changing our approach as a result of specific discussions that we’ve had with EU data protection regulators in recent months”. No mention of the swingeing fines the regulators threatened.
link to this extract

 


Bionic fingertip gives sense of touch to amputee » Reuters

Matthew Stock:

»A bionic fingertip has given an amputee the sensation of rough or smooth textures via electrodes implanted into nerves in his upper arm.

Scientists from EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) and SSSA (Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Italy) successfully allowed amputee Dennis Aabo Sørensen to receive this sophisticated tactile information in real-time.

The research, published in science journal eLife, says Sørensen is the first person in the world to recognize texture using a bionic fingertip connected to electrodes surgically implanted above his stump.

The nerves in Sørensen’s arm were wired to a machine with the fingertip attached to it. The machine then controlled the movement of the fingertip over pieces of plastic engraved with different textures, either rough or smooth. When the fingertip moved across the plastic, its sensors generated an electrical signal which was translated into a series of electrical spikes that mimic the language of the nervous system. This was then delivered to Sørensen’s nerves.

«

Odd – and a little sad – how little of the billions washing around Silicon Valley are being used to set up companies to do things like this.
link to this extract

 


AlphaGo defeats Lee Sedol in first game of historic man vs machine match » Go Game Guru

You probably heard the news that Google’s DeepMind system AlphaGo beat the best player in the world. Here are the reactions of the pros (“9p” means “9-dan professional”, ie the highest level):

»Lee Changho 9p said,  “I’m so shocked by AlphaGo’s play!”

Meanwhile Cho Hanseung 9p remarked, “AlphaGo is much stronger than before, when it played against Fan Hui 2p! When Google said the odds were fifty-fifty, it seems they weren’t joking. I still can’t believe its performance even though I just saw it with my own eyes.”

In a post-game interview, Lee Sedol was visibly startled by AlphaGo’s strength. “I was so surprised. Actually, I never imagined that I would lose. It’s so shocking. Regarding the game, I got off to a bad start and AlphaGo played well right until the end. Even when I was behind, I still didn’t imagine that I’d lose. I didn’t think that it would be able to play such an excellent game. I heard that the DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis said that he respects me as a Go player, but I have great respect for both of them [referring to Demis Hassabis and Eric Schmidt] for making this amazing program. I also respect all the programmers who helped to make AlphaGo.”

«

The second game should finish around 0800 GMT on Thursday.
link to this extract

 


Exclusive: 1736 documents reveal ISIS jihadists personal data » Zaman Al Wasl

»Zaman Al Wasl has exclusively obtained the personal data of 1736 ISIS fighters from over 40 countries, including their backgrounds, nationalities and hometown addresses.

The document that branded by ISIS as confidential is shedding the light on the inner circle of the de facto a state which has its own institutions and official documents as well data bank.

Two thirds of ISIS manpower are from Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. 25% of ISIS fighters are Saudis, the data disclosed.

While Turkish fighters are taking the lead among ISIS foreign fighters, French fighters come next.

Syrians are just 1.7 % of the total number of fighters. The Iraqis make 1.2.

Expert told Zaman al-Wasl that Iraqis and Jordanians can make the backbone of ISIS but most of them are based in Mosul and ISIS-controlled areas in Ramadi.

The most notably that ISIS fighters do not know the real names of their fellow fighters since they used to have code names, or names de guerre, and for security issues they have been obliged to follow high ranks of secrecy.

The documents have been written and organized by the General Administration of Borders, and ISIS commission that tracks all Jihadists data.

The data document is including 23 fields, starting with the Jihadist’s first name, last name, code name, date of birth and nationality. The jihadist who cross the the Islamic State’s borders for the first time is ought to acknowledge the Borders Administration everything about himself, even what he wants to be in ISIS, a fighter or a suicide bomber.

«

Hacking is damned annoying thing.
link to this extract

 


Maybe we could tone down the JavaScript » fuzzy notepad

Alex Munroe is kinda annoyed about pages which insist on a ton of Javascript:

»These aren’t cutting-edge interactive applications; they’re pages with text on them. We used to print those on paper, but as soon as we made the leap to computers, it became impossible to put words on a screen without executing several megabytes of custom junk?

I can almost hear the Hacker News comments now, about what a luddite I am for not thinking five paragraphs of static text need to be infested with a thousand lines of script. Well, let me say proactively: fuck all y’all. I think the Web is great, I think interactive dynamic stuff is great, and I think the progress we’ve made in the last decade is great. I also think it’s great that the Web is and always has been inherently customizable by users, and that I can use an extension that lets me decide ahead of time what an arbitrary site can run on my computer.

What’s less great is a team of highly-paid and highly-skilled people all using Chrome on a recent Mac Pro, developing in an office half a mile from almost every server they hit, then turning around and scoffing at people who don’t have exactly the same setup. Consider that any of the following might cause your JavaScript to not work:

• Someone is on a slow computer.
• Someone is on a slow connection.
• Someone is on a phone, i.e. a slow computer with a slow connection.
• Someone is stuck with an old browser on a computer they don’t control — at work, at school, in a library, etc.
• Someone is trying to write a small program that interacts with your site, which doesn’t have an API.

«

And he’s only just getting started.
link to this extract

 


How the smartphone shapes millennials’ online activities » Global Web Index

Chase Buckle:

»From a marketing perspective, the term Millennial is increasingly becoming synonymous with mobile. And for good reason – almost 90% own a smartphone and these internet users clock up on average over 3 hours per day online via mobiles (rising to over 4 hours in Latin America and the Middle East). That means they’re spending up to 5x longer per day online on mobile than older age groups.

Understandably, this enthusiasm for smartphones is having a huge impact on their online activities. Our latest research shows that Millennials overwhelmingly cite smartphones as their most important device for getting online, and we’re seeing more-and-more staple internet activities take place on mobile.

«

What I notice about the above graphic is that in the past month, about 76% used a search engine on mobile – and (slightly) more used a social network. By contrast on desktop, it would probably be 100% and 100%. Plus these are the millennials; for those who are older, both uses will be less. That search engine use is Google’s problem on mobile: lots of people don’t do search on a daily basis on mobile.
link to this extract

 


We need to save online journalism from ad blocking – and here’s how » Alphr

James O’Malley:

»Historically, journalism has had two major sources of income: Advertisers and readers. But now publishing is being squeezed from both ends. Thanks to the internet, and the explosion in ‘content’ (that’s what we call it now), people are very reticent to pay to read news, like they would have done for a print newspaper. And now thanks to ad-blockers, fewer people are looking at the adverts.

So what to do? How can a business model be found that will make journalism pay? Is there anything that can save this noble trade?

Bizarrely, the solution to this problem has already been invented. Six years ago. By one of the last people you’d expect to have an interest in paying people for their work.

Flattr was co-founded in 2010 by Peter Sunde, who is better known as one of the co-founders and former spokesperson for The Pirate Bay. Given that his website is responsible for distributing huge swathes of pirated content, you can’t help but wonder if Flattr was his attempt at atonement.

Flattr is a “microdonation” platform. The idea is that you sign up and allocate a fixed amount of cash to pay in every month – say £10 for the sake of argument – and then if you’re reading an article online that you like, you can click the “Flattr” button nestled amongst the existing social media sharing links. At the end of the month, your £10 is then divided up between the publishers of the articles that you’ve chosen to flattr. So if you flattr two articles, they earn £5 each. If you flattr ten, then each gets a pound. And so on.

The genius is that it solves the biggest problem with any micropayment system: Friction.

«

Neat idea. The problem now is just adoption by publishers and readers (and getting users of adblockers to see it in the first place).
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

The Q4 2015 smartphone scorecard: Apple gazes down at the rat trap

Seen Skyfall? Remember the scene when we first encounter Javier Bardem playing whoever the baddie is? Here it is, as a reminder:

Bear it in mind. We’ll come back to it.

So: Ben Bajarin had some pretty bleak news for top-end Android smartphone companies recently:

That’s a decline of 90m, even while the overall smartphone market has grown from 704m (of which 501m were Android) to 1.43bn (of which 1.16bn were Android).

But your objection is probably the same as mine: isn’t the decrease in those sur-$500 shipments because the price of high-end Android handsets has fallen? The price you have to pay to get something with the same qualities as the $500-or-more Android flagship is lower than it was in 2012.

This is almost certainly true – but it isn’t much compensation for those struggling to expand their sales and seeing average selling prices (ASPs) fall. There’s a simple financial reason: if you keep selling the same number of phones at lower ASP, your profit will inevitably fall off a cliff as fixed costs such as staff and administration weigh you down.

What’s also notable that Apple hasn’t – so far – been affected by any drop in ASP. Since the start of 2010, its ASP for any quarter has only been below $600 four times – and in the most recent quarter, it reached an all-time high. Which leads one to wonder: what the hell is going on? But let’s show you the numbers from the quarter, and then discuss them.

Q4 2015: the smartphone scorecard
* denotes estimate: explanations below
Company Handsets
(million)
Revenues Handset
ASP
Operating
profit
Per-handset
profit
Samsung 81.5 $20.40bn $225.39 $1.90bn $23.29
Apple 78.25 $51.64bn $690.50 $14.41bn* $184.10*
LG 15.3 $3.22bn $210.26 –$51.47m –$3.36
Sony 7.6 $3.20bn $421.58 $198.91m $26.17
HTC 3.4* $0.81bn $237.05 –$128.00m –$37.65
Microsoft
Mobile
4.5 $0.84bn $185.70 –$162m –$36.11

Assumptions

Samsung: featurephones (it sold 18.5m) had an ASP of $30, and generated zero profit; its tablets had an ASP of $100 and generated zero profit. (These are the same assumptions as in previous quarters. If the ASP is lower, then revenues are higher and the ASP of smartphones is higher; if profits are non-zero on tablets and featurephones, profits on smartphones are lower.)

Apple: operating profit has to be assumed, at the same 27.9% share of revenue as in previous quarters. This may not be true – new phones such as the 6S/Plus are more expensive to produce at the start of a cycle (such as now). But again, consistency probably helps give the broad picture rather than trying to dive into numbers that only a few people inside Apple truly know.

Microsoft Mobile: assumes, as previously, that featurephones (there were 22.5m of them) had an ASP of $15 and gross margin – the profit purely on the goods, not including costs such as R+D and administration etc – of $5. These are the same assumptions as in the past. I’ve chopped the estimates of R+D and administration cost from $200m in previous quarters to $100m and from $300m to $100m because Microsoft said in its 10-Q that

Operating expenses [in the Devices division, which makes the Surface Pro, Surface Book, and phones] decreased $561m or 14%, mainly due to lower sales and marketing expenses and research and development expenses. Sales and marketing expenses decreased $359m or 18%, driven by a reduction in phone expenses, partially offset by marketing expenses associated with the launch of Surface Pro 4, Surface Book, and Windows 10. Research and development expenses decreased $179m or 11%, mainly due to a reduction in phone expenses.

To reach my figure for Microsoft’s profitability (or lack of it) I’ve taken $300m out of the Microsoft phone group’s operating costs, which might be close to the amount from the total $920m it says it cut. Without more clarity (or a shutdown of the phones division), hard to tell. But there’s no way one can see a division which sells 4.5m phones and generates around $830m being profitable; that’s about the same scale as HTC, which we know is not profitable because it publishes its results.

Microsoft has become increasingly opaque about the profitability of its phone side (though of course Apple has never declared any numbers there; one has to back it out from what is known about Mac and iPod profitability).

Where’s Android Wear?

You may ask yourself: where are Android Wear shipments as a factor in the revenues of LG, Sony or Lenovo (or Samsung’s Gear in its figures)? To which I’ll answer: don’t worry. Too small to trouble with. By my calculations, and those of other analysts, Android Wear shipments from all makers in Q4 totalled 0.9m. At around $150 each, that’s a rounding error in revenue for any of these players. (I’ll revisit my ongoing calculations on Android Wear usage figures in the near future.)

Handset pricing: Apple stands on the precipice

The real lessons of what’s going one here aren’t easy to see from a single quarter’s numbers. But if you want it in a single statistic, look at the contrast between Sony and LG. LG sold nearly twice as many phones, but Sony made a respectable profit, while LG made a loss. What’s the difference between them? ASP. Sony’s phones sold at an average price of $421.58, while LG’s were half that – $210.26. (This doesn’t mean that every LG phone sold at that price, or every Sony phone. But it tells you that Sony must have sold a lot more expensive phones than LG.)

Graph the trend in ASP and it becomes clearer: Sony has (as it said it intended to) driven up ASP, while LG has been pushed down.

Sony phone ASPs are up, LG's are flat or down

Sony’s overall phone ASP has risen (though it now only sells half as many phones as LG)

Sony is literally the only Android OEM which has managed to raise ASPs consistently over the past year, and after a lot of pain (in the form of losses) it seems to be paying off in the form of profit. There’s a simple reason why, of course. The higher the price you can sell something for, the lower the proportion of your revenues the fixed costs – sales, administration, staff, and even seemingly trivial things like patent licensing – become. If you can drive your price up, you begin making profit. But if your ASP is driven down, everything starts eating into the bottom line.

Sony’s problem though is that it’s shrinking year-on-year. After a while, if your shipments are too low then even a high ASP can’t save you from your fixed costs – see HTC for the example. Still, Sony stands alone as having the highest ASP among Android OEMs. That doesn’t mean it sells the largest number of pricey handsets (Samsung surely has that title) but that it is consistently high.

Note how it’s only Samsung, which has both chip foundries and screen fabrication facilities, that has consistently been the biggest smartphone OEM and the only consistently profitable Android OEM.

But Samsung’s ASP is coming down quarter after quarter; it’s only keeping its profits level by making more phones, whose ASPs are falling. That hits revenues and profits – as charted below.

Samsung mobile revenues, profits and ASPs are falling

Note also how the total number of handsets that Samsung, HTC, Sony, LG and Lenovo/Motorola sold in 4Q15 was down to 128m, compared to 133.15m a year before – a fall of 4% while the smartphone business as a whole grew 6%. There’s a growing squeeze on the top end Android business, which we’ve seen since Q2 last year.

Apple meanwhile officially stayed static, mainly by “stuffing the channel” – getting carriers and others to buy phones which hadn’t reached customers by the end of the quarter, but counted as “shipped”; about 3m were pushed that way. This means Apple’s numbers of shipments to customers probably rose only minimally to 75m. Gartner’s figures say that Apple’s sales to end customers actually fell.

But there’s a bigger dynamic going on. Philip Elmer-DeWitt posted a fun interactive graphic showing how Android ASPs have moved compared to those for the iPhone. Here, statically, is the data – which comes from IDC and covers all Android handsets, of course, not just those at the top end from the companies which publish public figures:

The gap between iPhone and Android average prices is widening

In US$, iPhone average prices are remaining high; Android prices are falling as its base grows

The growing gap (or “delta”) between those two is dramatic. Of course part of that is what’s happening as Android reaches more and more people in the world: the poor in Kenya can’t afford an iPhone, but they can probably afford a $50 (Android) smartphone if it will help them do their jobs better. So is this just about Apple hanging on to profits as is often suggested? Not at all, responded Horace Dediu:

“Within the price is perception.” It’s quite the observation. As Dediu also pointed out, Apple hasn’t changed the selling price of its Mac line of computers for around 20 years. For all that Apple’s prices seem out of reach, that is precisely its attraction to some people – perversely, in the view of those who see smartphones (and PCs) as utterly functional and interchangeable. To some, they really aren’t.

And to continue having that perception, Apple also has to stand apart with its operating system and services. It could never license iOS; and I don’t see how it could make iMessage cross-platform without diluting its brand value. (That doesn’t mean it couldn’t grow iMessage into a messaging platform in its own right, able to do payments and so on.)

The pricing gap

With Android phones getting cheaper all the time, there’s not a lot of hope for the former premium makers. Kantar ComTech posted a neat graphic showing how the torch is passing among Android users in the EU’s five largest countries (Germany, UK, France, Spain, Italy) which shows this starkly:

Outflow from HTC, Sony, LG, Samsung to Huawei, BQ, Motorola, Wiko and Alcatel

Owners are abandoning established Android OEMs (purple) for rivals (green). Source: Kantar.

You’ve probably heard of Huawei, but would you have picked Alcatel or those others as rivals to Samsung or HTC? Probably not, even a few quarters ago.

LG is trying to escape this by effectively making this year’s G5 flagship modular, with add-ons such as cameras, high-end audio DAC and VR systems that you can plug in. The idea is to make the G5 more attractive because it has these extras. However given the numbers of G5s it’s likely to sell (a few million?) those add-ons (called “Friends”) are likely to be stranded. (I remember the same with Handspring’s add-ons. Great idea, but commercially doomed.) It’s extra revenue, and possibly each Friend sold will generate as much profit as a phone – accessories can do that – but won’t push up the ASPs of the actual phone. And if Friends are made available for cheaper LG phones, why would you buy the flagship when you can get the extra functionality of a Friend for cheaper?

Samsung has in effect already cut the price of the S7 by offering a free VR system to anyone who pre-orders. And Sony has Osborned its existing products with its announcements at Mobile World Congress, which its high-end customers will have noticed.

None of this helps with the finances, or fights off the rise of cheaper, just-as-good devices running the same software.

The Android handset market is broadening, and deepening, like a pothole opening up beneath the previoiusly established companies. Xiaomi (VC-funded), Huawei (big network business throwing off cash), scores of tiny Chinese OEMs, niche makers… they’re all eating away at the edge of what seemed like a certain market.

And add to that the slowdown in the smartphone market, and you have a recipe for a repeat of that rat pit we saw referred to way back at the top. It’s going to be last man, or OEM, or if you prefer rat, standing.

Looking down from the precipice into the rat trap

But what does Apple do in all this? The gap between its average price and that of the “average” Android phone is widening all the time. Isn’t that a problem? A big one?

Yet Apple’s brand, and that position, isn’t built on hardware alone. You don’t hear about people using an iPhone in spite of iOS, the way you do about Samsung and its TouchWiz skin, for instance. iOS’s software reputation remains pretty solid: it hasn’t, despite many predictions, lost its lead in getting apps before Android in the west. (As a reminder, Eric Schmidt’s “in six months developers will be writing for Android first” promise was in December 2011; didn’t work out, at least in the west. Asia was and remains Android-first for most things.) iOS 9’s adoption was faster than iOS 8, despite the ecosystem being bigger. Apple Music seems to be winning users, though it’s a long, long way behind Spotify, especially on Android.

The question of how Apple can maintain its pricing in the face of the rampant deflation in the Android handset market remains the most interesting one around. Yet it has managed that in the PC market: its ASP there is $1200, while that for the “big” PC makers ranges from $300 (Acer) to $500 (Lenovo). And it has managed that for more than a decade. But it’s done that as a niche product which has only recently become more mainstream. In the phone market, its share of all handsets in Q4 was over 10%, and 19% of smartphones. Can you maintain premium pricing and be mainstream?

For the Android OEMs, though, the story remains the same: you’re down there in the rat trap, and that curious face above you gazing down is Javier Bardem, waiting to see who’ll be left at the end. And I’m just behind, looking over his shoulder, just as fascinated.