Start up: fibre’s horsemeat moment, AMD in new Apples?, Sony’s troubled cameras, Xiaomi sales slow, and more

A discredited voice recognition system was used in scores of secret court cases which are now being disputed. Photo by Lotus Carroll on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. Or just read it online. Choice!

A selection of 10 links for you. But is that 10 in base 10? I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Quality woes a challenge for Tesla’s high-volume car » WSJ

Mike Ramsey:

»Anne Carter had her Tesla Motors Inc. Model X sport-utility vehicle for a few days before the $138,000 electric vehicle suffered a mechanical malfunction.

On a recent morning, the car’s falcon-wing doors wouldn’t open as she prepared to drive her children’s carpool to school. “It’s a bummer; you spent all this money…and the doors won’t open,” she said in an interview while waiting for the Model X to be picked up for repairs. She expected some issues, but feels embarrassed that friends might think: “Look at the Carters—they spent all this money and the doors don’t work.”

During a very critical time for the pioneering electric-car maker, its well-to-do customers are confronting not only problems with the Model X’s rear doors but other issues, including a seat latch the company has recalled.

«

Making cars seems to be really pretty difficult.
link to this extract

 


Nvidia creates a 15bn-transistor chip for deep learning » VentureBeat

Dean Takahashi:

»Nvidia chief executive Jen-Hsun Huang announced that the company has created a new chip, the Tesla P100, with 15 billion transistors for deep-learning computing. It’s the biggest chip ever made, Huang said.

Huang made the announcement during his keynote at the GPUTech conference in San Jose, California. He unveiled the chip after he said that deep-learning artificial intelligence chips have already become the company’s fastest-growing business.

“We are changing so many things in one project,” Huang said. “The Tesla P100 has five miracles.”

Nvidia previously launched its Tesla M4 and Tesla M40 deep-learning chips, and those chips are selling fast. Now the Tesla P100 is in volume production today, Huang said.

“We decided to go all-in on A.I.,” Huang said. “This is the largest FinFET chip that has ever been done.”

«

Maybe Intel could focus on GPUs instead of CPUs? Seems to be where the business is heading.
link to this extract

 


AMD Radeon 400 series ‘Polaris’ GPUs land major Apple design wins » WCCF Tech

Khalid Moammer:

»From what we’ve been hearing Polaris is no exception. In fact our sources have confirmed that the major OEM design win that we had reported on last year is indeed for Apple.

The Sunnyvale, California based chip maker secured wins for both of its upcoming Radeon 400 series 14nm FinFET graphics chips, Polaris 10 and Polaris 11. Previously known as “Ellesmere” and “Baffin”, both of which are Arctic Islands. The chips have since been renamed to Polaris 10 and 11 respectively, in line with AMD’s newly adopted Astronomy based architectural code naming scheme which Koduri had instated after the Radeon Technologies Group was established last year.

The Polaris 10 and 11 chips will go into new desktops and notebooks from Apple, which the company plans to bring to market later this year. And although these Apple design wins may not be significant volume contributors they are very profitable.

«

That’s going to make for an interesting WWDC in June, then. These Radeon GPUs would be capable of VR work, apparently.
link to this extract

 


Two thirds ‘misled’ by fibre broadband advertising, experts compare situation to horsemeat scandal » Cable.co.uk

»Research by Cable.co.uk has revealed that two thirds of fibre broadband customers on BT’s Openreach network – which services around 80% of the UK’s total broadband customer base – are unaware their so-called ‘fibre’ service arrives at their home through a standard copper telephone line.

This is important, because the speeds available over copper reduce drastically over distance, severely limiting both current speeds and future upgradability.

Experts, speaking to Cable.co.uk, labeled the way the term ‘fibre broadband’ is widely used in the UK ‘misleading’ and compared the situation to the horsemeat scandal.

This comes just days after the Broadband Infrastructure Group (BIG), a cross-party group of MPs led by Grant Shapps, demanded an end to what it described as a “mis-selling” scandal potentially bigger than PPI and Volkswagen’s emissions tests.

«

link to this extract

 


On the road to recap » Above the Crowd

Noted venture capitalist Bill Gurley:

»While not obvious on the surface, there has been a fundamental sea-change in the investment community that has made the incremental Unicorn investment a substantially more dangerous and complicated practice. All Unicorn participants — founders, company employees, venture investors and their limited partners (LPs) — are seeing their fortunes put at risk from the very nature of the Unicorn phenomenon itself. The pressures of lofty paper valuations, massive burn rates (and the subsequent need for more cash), and unprecedented low levels of IPOs and M&A, have created a complex and unique circumstance which many Unicorn CEOs and investors are ill-prepared to navigate…

…Perhaps the seminal bubble-popping event was John Carreyrou’s October 16th investigative analysis of Theranos in the Wall Street Journal. John was the first to uncover that just because a company can raise money from a handful of investors at a very high price, it does not guarantee (i) everything is going well at the company, or (ii) those shares are permanently worth the last round valuation. Ironically, Carreyou is not a Silicon Valley-focused reporter, and the success of the piece served as a wake-up call for other journalists who may have been struck by Unicorn fever. Next came Rolfe Winkler’s deep dive “Highly Valued Startup Zenefits Runs Into Turbulence.” We should expect more of these in the future.

«

Every VC I watch on Twitter has gone bananas about this post, which warns that “the game has changed”. Meanwhile, notable that the two articles Gurley points to were in the paywalled Wall Street Journal.
link to this extract

 


Sony disposal beckons » Bloomberg Gadfly

Tim Culpan:

»In a surprise announcement, Sony cut a further 59.6bn yen [£372m, $533m] from the value of the devices unit, citing camera modules as the culprit, wiping a net 30bn yen from full-year operating income:

»

“Due to a decrease in projected future demand, Sony has revised its Mid-Range Plan for the camera module business in the Devices segment from the period beginning with the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017.”

«

How the star performer morphed into one of Sony’s biggest drags can’t be fully explained by external factors. For sure, the global mobile market is slowing, but smartphones are still posting growth, especially at the high end, as consumers are prepared to pay more for quality components such as cameras. Declines in the PC and digital still camera markets can’t account for the sudden reversal in fortunes, either: That’s been a theme for a few years.

That leaves internal factors. If this truly is a macro problem, then the sudden writedown bears a whiff of incompetence. If, on the other hand, Sony lost a key client, that says something about its ability to retain big customers, or its dependence on too few.

«

Feels like it must have lost a key client in the smartphone space. But who, and to which rival?
link to this extract

 


Secretive legal committee buries ruling against Theresa May » Politics.co.uk

Ian Dunt:

»The case also saw Dr Harrison, an expert in voice recognition, dismantle the claims about fraud – and their ability to test for fraud – made by the Home Office and ETS, the firm who ran the test. What he said was equally applicable to all the other cases where people had been wrongly accused of fraud. The evidence the Home Office relied on was identical in all cases, so knocking it down for one should knock it down for all.

But it won’t, because the reporting committee is refusing to report it. The decision means that the case cannot be cited, except under very strict and laborious conditions, in other appeals. It means many thousands of people who have been unjustly deported will not even know of its existence. The decision makes the ruling against Theresa May legally useless. It’s as if it never happened. The reporting committee has taken a damning judgement against the home secretary and buried it.

«

Dunt only refers in passing to the voice recognition stuff. ETS apparently had a contract with the UK government to find impersonation – but it “decided not to renew the contract” after the BBC exposed evidence of fraud at two of UK-based centres using the software. ETS blamed “dishonest activities of third-party contractors”. It seems the expert witness blamed ETS.
link to this extract

 


Postscript: Bill Campbell, 1940-2016 » The New Yorker

Ken Auletta looks back on Campbell’s life as a mentor and advisor, which includes this fascinating tidbit:

»Google relied on Campbell to sort out tempests caused by imperial engineers burdened by oversized egos that prevented them from collaborating. This happened with Andy Rubin, the entrepreneur who created Android and built it into a resounding Google success. The Android team under Rubin was massive. But, as I learned through numerous interviews while writing a book about the company and in later conversations with Google executives, Rubin tended to trust only members of his élite team, and fought with other top executives, including such original Google employees as Salar Kamangar, who supervised YouTube, and Alan Eustace, the head of engineering. The weekly meetings of senior Google executives were filled with tension and discord. Executives became so dispirited by what they saw as Rubin’s dominance that they threatened to quit. Campbell advised Larry Page to make a choice, and to the relief of senior executives Page chose to remove Rubin. Campbell had earlier warned Page that Marissa Mayer, the talented engineer who went on to become the CEO of Yahoo, had a similar my-way-or-the-highway approach, which also led to her demotion to a position where she no longer reported to the CEO. Campbell knew that a lack of empathy often translated into an inability to listen.

«

Campbell had an outstanding ability to listen, as Auletta shows. Clearly he will be sorely missed.
link to this extract

 


Opera now has a totally free and unlimited built-in VPN » Gizmodo

Jamie Condliffe:

»The new feature is available in the latest developer version of the Opera browser for Windows or OS X. You just go to Settings on Windows or Preferences on a Mac, then toggle the VPN on in the Privacy & Security section. Bingo, you’re browsing over a virtual private network and you mask your IP address to dodge firewalls so that you can view content that you’re unable to from your current country or office. As well as all the other responsible things that a VPN can help you with.

«

“Virtual locations” only in the US, Germany and Australia at first. Which means this will become the “Netflix browser”, until Netflix blocks the Opera VPN IPs.

Even so, I have to wonder: what’s the catch? How does Opera benefit from this? Running VPNs isn’t free, or trouble-free. Am I the only person who has this reaction when free stuff is proffered?
link to this extract

 


Xiaomi sees sales shrink in Q1 2016 » Tech In Asia

Erik Crouch:

»Xiaomi sold 14.8m smartphones globally in the first quarter of 2016, a notable decline from 17.5m in the last quarter of 2015.

The new figure comes from research by IHS Technology, and the Q4 number from Strategy Analytics. Tech in Asia reached out to Xiaomi about these numbers, and the company declined to comment.

The number shows that Xiaomi’s slowing growth in 2015 is turning into its worst nightmare in 2016: falling sales.

Xiaomi sold 70 million smartphones last year.

These aren’t official Xiaomi statistics, and reports compiled by research firms are best treated as estimates. But even providing for a hefty margin of error – and keeping in mind that Xiaomi has said it wants to move away from “goals such as smartphone sales” and isn’t likely to publish Q1 stats – the figures show a company that will need to improve its numbers if it aims to grow its smartphone department at all this year.

«

Sequential quarter comparisons (especially from 4Q to 1Q) are rarely meaningful, but the year-on-year comparison is still down: Xiaomi shipped 15.3m in Q1 2015, from the figures I have.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Yahoo’s mobile trouble, BLARPing, Galaxy S6’s slow start?, killing iOS, and more


Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo. You OK hun? Photo by jdlasica on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Count them, I dare you. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Office role-play? Meet the people who pretend to work at an office together » Fast Company

Justine Sharrock:

You’re stuck at an office all day, deleting all-staff emails and futzing with the office printer. But imagine if you were also part of an online group, pretending that you were in an office all day.

That’s what’s happening at one of the latest cult Facebook Groups, Generic Office Roleplay. Over 2,500 members from around the world fill its virtual pages with posts that mimic office-wide emails. There are passive aggressive notes about food stolen out of the fridge, mandates about office dress and office supplies, and tips for improving synergy. Think TV’s The Office meets David Rees’s clip Art cartoons, My New Filing Technique is Unstoppable meets live action role play (LARP), all happening on Facebook.

The term of choice for its practitioners is BLARPing—business live action role-play.

This is just wonderful.


‘No iOS Zone’ Wi-Fi zero-day bug forces iPhones, iPads to crash and burn » The Register

Darren Pauli:

Adi Sharabani and Yair Amit have revealed a zero-day vulnerability in iOS 8 that, when exploited by a malicious wireless hotspot, will repeatedly crash nearby Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods.

The Skycure bods say the attack, dubbed “No iOS Zone”, will render vulnerable iOS things within range unstable – or even entirely unusable by triggering constant reboots.

“Anyone can take any router and create a Wi-Fi hotspot that forces you to connect to their network, and then manipulate the traffic to cause apps and the operating system to crash,” Sharabani told the RSA security conference in San Francisco today.

“There is nothing you can do about it other than physically running away from the attackers. This is not a denial-of-service where you can’t use your Wi-Fi – this is a denial-of-service so you can’t use your device even in offline mode.”


 
The denial-of-service is triggered by manipulating SSL certificates sent to the iOS devices over Wi-Fi; specially crafted data will cause apps or possibly the operating system to crash.

Fix in the works. Somewhere.


Galaxy S6 smartphones suffer weaker than expected sales in S. Korea » Yonhap News

Samsung Electronics Co.’s newest high-end smartphones – the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge – are seen drawing less than expected attention from consumers, industry data showed Wednesday, casting clouds over the market’s upbeat sales estimate of over 50m units for 2015.

South Korea’s No. 1 tech giant had sold a little over 200,000 units of the two smartphones here as of Sunday since their launch on April 10, sharply falling short of the 300,000 preorders, according to the data, indicating that earlier sales forecasts may be exaggerated…

…industry watchers have been painting rosy pictures of the gadgets, with Hong Kong-based industry tracker Counterpoint suggesting the two will sell more than 50m units this year, while some researchers even gave a 70m-unit forecast.

But some industry watchers say the 10-day sales figure is not alarming, given that South Korea’s already saturated smartphone market is currently dented by the country’s regulations on subsidies.

Korea may be a special case (and the story says carriers are pushing harder on subsidies). But I think Samsung might find the top end saturated. This is going to be fascinating to watch play out.


Does a higher bill mean a better 4G service? » OpenSignal blog

Kevin Fitchard, guest-posting:

The U.S. has the highest average revenue per subscriber (ARPU) of the 29 countries sampled in the analysis at about $59. Yet as far as network speed goes, the U.S. ranks 26th out of 29, supplying an average connection of 7 Mbps. Meanwhile the lowest ARPU in the sample, $3, belongs to the Philippines, yet its two LTE operators deliver average speeds of 8 Mbps, ranking the country above the U.S.

The fastest LTE performance can now be found in Northern Europe, Spain, France, Hungary and South Korea, where speeds between 16 and 18 Mbps are the norm. But the differences in ARPU between them are huge. In Denmark, ARPU is around $19 a month. In Norway that number is $34, which is more in line with South Korea’s ARPU of $33 than it is with Norway’s neighbor just over the North Sea.

Within countries, the pattern – or lack thereof – was the same. In the U.K., EE has the distinction of having the fastest speeds (17.8 Mbps), seemingly justifying the $2 to $6 more it collects in ARPU over its competitors Vodafone and O2. But in the U.S. the opposite is true. T-Mobile has by far the fastest speeds (10 Mbps) compared to Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, but its ARPU is $49, undercutting its next cheapest competitor by $8 a month.

US 4G is more like European HSDPA+. But you try telling them that… (I’m a customer of Three in the UK, which offers 4G for free. I like it.)


Tesla: It’s a battery! » MarketWatch

Claudia Assis:

At the event [on 30 April], Tesla “will explain the advantages of our solutions and why past battery options weren’t compelling (OK Elon said “sucked”),” Tesla’s IR manager Jeff Evanson wrote in an email to analysts and investors early Wednesday. “Sorry, no motorcycle…but that was a creative guess.”

Shares of Tesla rose nearly 5%. A close around those levels would be Tesla’s highest in two weeks. Tesla shares have gained 9% in the past three months, but lost 1.4% in the last 12 months. That compares with gains of 2% for the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.27%  in the past 12 months.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said Tesla was working on a battery for homes and business back in February, when the company announced fourth-quarter results. Last month, Musk tweeted about a new “major product line” to be unveiled on April 30, saying only it was not a car.

Regular readers have known this since 3 April.


How Timehop was created » Business Insider

Maya Kosoff on Timehop, which has 19 staff but 15m registered users (of whom 7m check in every day) to see what they were doing exactly a year ago on social media:

When Jonathan Wegener and Benny Wong started Timehop in 2011, they were working on a completely different project: a Craigslist replacement. Wong and Wegener — self-proclaimed “Foursquare fanboys” — participated in Foursquare’s first-ever hackathon, and they ended up building out a product on top of Foursquare’s API that showed users where they checked in on Foursquare a year ago.

They appropriately called the product, which they built in eight hours, 4SquareAnd7YearsAgo.

“The original inspiration for it was the ghost in Mario Kart, where you get to race yourself in time trials after you’ve done a race,” Wegener says. “We thought it would be really interesting to do that with your Foursquare checkins.”

First time that a useful idea has taken inspiration from a game concept?


Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer on Q4 2014 results – earnings call transcript » Seeking Alpha

This is from January, where Mayer was asked whether Yahoo would try to knock Google off iOS as the search default (as it has on Firefox in the US – because Google didn’t bid, I understand):

I will take the question on the Safari deal. The Safari platform is basically one of the premiere search engine in the world, if not the premiere search engine in the world. We are definitely in the search distribution business. I think we stated that really clearly in the past and I think with Mozilla and also in addition we brought Amazon and eBay onboard with smaller distribution partnerships in Q4, we are in search distribution business and anyone who is in that business needs to be interested in the Safari deal.

The Safari users are among the most engaged and lucrative users in the world and it’s something that we would really like to be able to provide. We work really closely with Mozilla to ultimately bring to their users an experience that they designed and that they feel really suit those users and we welcome the opportunity with any other partner to do the same, particularly one with Apple’s volume and end user base.

I think when she said “the premiere search engine in the world”, she meant “one of the most-used browsers to access search engines”. Statcounter data suggests Safari was used for half of US smartphone and tablet use in March; if Mayer crazy enough to try to buy that search deal when it comes up later this year? (There’s no mention of it in the Q1 earnings transcript.)


AdBlock Plus proves it’s not illegal » Betanews

So hated is AdBlock Plus, in fact, that a case was brought against the tool to try to prove that it is illegal.

Now a court in Hamburg has come to a decision, and ruled that AdBlock Plus – in case there was ever any doubt – is entirely legal. The plaintiffs in the case alleged that AdBlock Plus should not be permitted to block ads on the websites it owns. The judge presiding over the case disagreed.

The court ruled that AdBlock Plus is well within its rights to provide the option to hide advertisements on websites. The company sees this as setting a precedent and is taking this moment in the spotlight to reach out to content creators to work together to “develop new forms of nonintrusive ads that are actually useful and welcomed by users.”

ABP’s Ben Williams enjoys his Nelson Muntz moment on the company blog.


Start up: Apple’s China watch pricing, Google v EC (and FTC), inside the Watch, and more


Not from Elon Musk, but who knows in future? Photo by Eva the Weaver on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The Apple Watch, China Edition » MarkDMill

Mark Miller:

This is the political and social environment in which the gold Apple Watch Edition enters China. Luxury watches are worn in China as a display of one’s wealth, but right now displaying wealth on one’s wrist is dangerous and, legitimately or not, is taken as a sign of corruption. The gold Apple Watch will sell,  but I would wager an Apple Watch Edition that it won’t be seen on the wrists of government officials or successful business people with political connections (which is most successful business people)–or, if it is seen, that person will quickly be sanctioned or even sacked.

This, then, is why Apple’s positioning of Apple Watch is so brilliant: by releasing Apple Watch Edition at the luxury price of RMB 74,800 ($12,062),1 the “normal” Apple Watch seems downright frugal at RMB 4,188 ($675). Even the most expensive Apple Watch (RMB 8,288; $1336) looks cheap in comparison to the most expensive Apple Watch Edition (RMB 112,800; $18,190). By pricing one collection so high, Apple has managed to make Apple Watch seem downright moderate – even though it costs 15-30% of the average Chinese annual salary!


Twitter meets deep search, and much, much more. — Medium

Mark Yoshitake:

Today Kifi is proud to announce the launch of a Twitter integration that will allow you and millions of others to automatically save links you have shared through Twitter, and use them in an entirely new way. Think of this as a search engine built just for the content you’ve Tweeted. Kifi will also recommend other great content for you to share, based on these links. Join the beta now, its free.

We know one of the huge problems people have is recalling all the wealth of information they’ve found and shared, on Twitter. So we built this incredibly powerful tool to allow you to get back to any link you have shared on Twitter, instantly.

Twitter will either kill this or buy it, won’t it?


iPhone killer: the secret history of the Apple Watch » WIRED

David Pierce:

one thing was clear [to Kevin Lynch, who was surprised to find himself in charge of the project – already underway – on his first day in the job, and two days from a top-level review] from the start: The Watch would succeed or fail on the strength of what’s prosaically called the user interface. The interface would determine whether the Watch ended up displayed in a dozen museums or remembered as Apple’s biggest flop since the Newton.

That’s where Alan Dye comes in. As chief of Apple’s human interface group, he’s in charge of creating the ways you tell your device what to do and how that device responds. Those cool little experiences you have with your laptop and phone and tablet, like when the app icons quiver because they’re ready to move around your screen? That’s the human interface team.

Pierce has written a fantastic piece. The amount of access seems comparable to that afforded the New Yorker. Clearly, Apple wants both the fashion crew and the tech crew to like it; but note how it’s approaching them, in different ways.


Beyond the FTC memorandum: comparing Google’s internal discussions with its public claims » Ben Edelman

Edelman is a specialist in competition law; he has consulted for rivals to Google, including Microsoft, but also for Google. This is a deep dive of what’s in the FTC memorandum and others. Here’s just a taste:

Specialized search and favoring Google’s own services: targeting bad sites or solid competitors?

In public statements, Google often claimed that sites were rightly deprioritized in search results, indicating that demotions targeted “low quality,” “shallow” sites with “duplicate, overlapping, or redundant” content that is “mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators … so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care.” Google Senior Vice President Jonathan Rosenberg chose the colorful phrase “faceless scribes of drivel” to describe sites Google would demote “to the back of the arena.”

But when it came to the competing shopping services Google staff sought to relegate, Google’s internal assessments were quite different. “The bizrate/nextag/epinions pages are decently good results. They are usually well-format[t]ed, rarely broken, load quickly and usually on-topic. Raters tend to like them. …. [R]aters like the variety of choices the meta-shopping site[s] seem… to give” (footnote 154, citing GOOGSING-000014375).

Here too, Google’s senior leaders approved the decision to favor Google’s services. Google co-founder Larry Page personally reviewed the prominence of Google’s services and, indeed, sought to make Google services more prominent. For example: “Larry thought product [Google’s shopping service] should get more exposure” (footnote 120, citing GOOG-Texas-1004148). Product managers agreed, calling it “strategic” to “dial up” Google Shopping (footnote 120, citing GOOG-Texas-0197424). Others noted the competitive importance: Preferred placement of Google’s specialized search services was deemed important to avoid “ced[ing] recent share gains to competitors” (footnote 121, citing GOOG-Texas-0191859) or indeed essential: “most of us on geo [Google Local] think we won’t win unless we can inject a lot more of local directly into google results” (footnote 121, citing GOOGEC-0069974).

The European Commission’s antitrust group has seen the full FTC report. Speaking of the Commission…


EU lays groundwork for antitrust charges against Google » WSJ

Tom Fairless and Alistair Barr:

The European Commission, the European Union’s top antitrust authority, has been asking companies that filed complaints against Google for permission to publish some information they previously submitted confidentially, according to several people familiar with the requests. Shopping, local and travel companies are among those that have been contacted, one of those people said.

A decision to file charges against Google would kick off the EU’s highest-profile antitrust suit since its lengthy campaign that started a decade ago against Microsoft Corp., which paid the bloc €1.7 billion ($1.8 billion) in fines through 2012.

A settlement in Google’s case is always possible. Even if the EU presses ahead with charges, Google could still strike a deal to resolve the bloc’s concerns that the company abuses its dominance in the European search market.

“Publish” doesn’t mean quite what you’d hope. Here’s what happens:
• If – as now seems certain – the EC raises a “Statement of Objections” against Google, it will include in the SOO that gets sent (privately) to Google some of the info that objectors provided to it confidentially.
• So it has to ask them to send that.
• Google looks at the SOO, redacts any info about itself it thinks is commercially confidential, sends that back to the EC.
• The EC sends the now-Google-redacted SOO to objectors, who can comment to the EC about it
• EC has a finished SOO and can use it against Google.

The process then is still lengthy. Expect all this to carry on through 2015 – possibly even to 2016 – before any resolution. But the possibility of a fine exists, and isn’t minimal.

Margrethe Vestager has clearly decided though to take a different tack from her predecessor, Joaquin Almunia; she’s not looking to settle. He tried three times and failed, in the face of objections from those who had complained, and latterly of politicians in Germany and France.


Google Lab puts a time limit on innovations » WSJ

Alistair Barr:

the new emphasis on Advanced Technology and Projects, which upends some Google traditions. Most projects are limited to two years, after which they are killed, moved into Google, spun off into independent firms or licensed to others. The group jettisons project leaders after two years and hires mostly outside experts.

There have been 11 projects in the group, including Ara, a smartphone with switchable components; Tango, a 3-D mapping technology; and Spotlight Stories, interactive animations and short films for smaller phone screens.

The approach is the brainchild of Regina Dugan, the former head of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. She joined Motorola, then a division of Google, in 2012 and is close to [Eric] Schmidt, who’s been spending more time at the research lab recently.

“We like this model because it puts pressure on people to perform and do relevant things or stop,” Mr. Schmidt said. “I’ve spent an awful lot of time on projects that never end and products that would never ship.”

Is there just a little note of.. anxiety here? (In passing, Alistair Barr has been doing some great, solid reporting of late.)


Slack hack and broken model of centralized data » Medium

Muneeb Ali:

The interesting thing about security is no one cares about it until shit hits the fan. That shiny new product feature you’re working on seems so much more important than securing your chat logs. Our solution was to simply stop talking about anything sensitive over Slack. You can afford to do that when you’re a small startup and literally sit next to each other. But you can’t scale this as you grow.

To me the Slack hack is yet another reminder that centralized models are broken by design. Slack is an awesome company and I’m sure they’ll comply with the best security practices. It doesn’t look like the hacker got access to chat logs in this hack. But that still means that Slack is a single point of failure. They’re a prime target for hackers. A single place from where confidential information of a lot of other companies can be accessed.

Ali’s company Onename uses a blockchain-based approach for decentralised identity. Interesting approach.


Musk’s tweeted promise not such a surprise after all » FT Tech blog

Richard Waters:

there are no real surprises here, it seems. Speaking on a Tesla earnings call on February 11th, he said the company was working on a “consumer battery that will be for use in people’s houses or businesses”, with a product unveiling “probably in the next month or two”.

SolarCity – the installer of solar systems of which Musk is also chairman – says on its own website that it has been experimenting with a Tesla-branded residential battery at 300 test sites, with another 130 to come. It promises to have a storage product “available again in late summer 2015,” which also fits with the Musk tweet timeline.

The solar company promotes the residential battery as an emergency back-up in case the utility grid fails, “such as after an earthquake or other natural disasters”. That sounds like a product for a niche market: it will be interesting to see how Musk presents it next month.


Start up: Zane Lowe joins Apple, Windows Phone five years on, Google closing Helpouts, and more


Oh yeah? Well I would say it’s a terrible rating. Photo by rynsms on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. Yes, I’ve tweaked the CSS for blockquote. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Zane Lowe to leave BBC Radio 1 for Apple » The Guardian

Vanessa Thorpe:

Zane Lowe, the BBC Radio 1 DJ , is leaving the network for Apple’s new iTunes radio service.

New Zealander Lowe, credited with helping to make the name of British music stars such as Arctic Monkeys, Adele and Ed Sheeran, is moving to America with his wife and two sons to work at Apple.

His final show in the prestigious evening slot will go out on 5 March. Lowe, who joined the station from XFM in 2003, said: “I want to thank everyone at Radio 1 for their support and friendship.

“The station has allowed me to share incredible music with the country’s best music fans – I’ve loved every minute of it. Exciting times lie ahead.”

This is fascinating. US readers probably won’t have any idea how influential Lowe is, but those few famous names are just an indicator – and he has continued his enthusiasm for decades. (I was listening to him when he was on London’s XFM 15 years ago, when he presented a nightly chart of new music.) Obviously, he’s going to be something to do with Beats Music as it gets rebranded.

That Apple is hiring him suggests it’s getting really serious about music content; and I hear it’s getting serious about expanding its public presence in other forms of content too.


Five years later, a full-on retreat from what made Windows Phone special » Thurrott.com

Paul Thurrott:

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced Windows Phone 7 Series at Mobile World Congress on February 15, 2010. “This is really about the phones and how the consumer will react to these devices,” he said during his introductory speech, setting the stage for the first big change: Microsoft was focusing Windows Phone 7 Series on the same high-end consumer smart phone market as the iPhone, and not on the traditional business market.

“We design for life maximizers,” a Microsoft representative told me at the time. “Windows Phone 7 Series is not about information workers.”

What’s a life maximizer, you ask?

“They’re 38 years old, 76 percent of them are employed, and 73 percent are in partnered relationships,” I was told. “They do care about work email. But what’s important to this audience is not feeling overwhelmed, balancing priorities, growing personally and professionally, and living life to the fullest.”

Yes. Really. And to spare Microsoft further embarrassment, I won’t get into the “personas” they created to show how Windows Phone was going to make everyone’s life better.

An object lesson in how you should not design your product to a tightly imagined demographic. It’s a fascinating article, full of reminders of things Windows Phone used to do but has now largely given up on. I still wonder what Microsoft gets out of Windows Phone, the platform, since it’s effectively the only company making handsets for it.


Privacy error “Your connection is not private” Google chrome » YouTube

Unintentionally (on the part of the video maker) hilarious, but also depressing: he’s being told by Google Chrome that OKCupid’s SSL certificate isn’t entirely valid, and it blocks him from going there. So what does he do? He sees the problem as “my browser is mispelling it ‘https’ instead of ‘http'”, and why won’t it let him to go the site when Firefox will?

Point to bear in mind: it’s not the user who’s stupid here, it’s the people writing the error messages and associated jargon. (Though you can also make a separate determination about the user based on his videos.)


MIT uses patent from 1997 to sue Apple over chips » Gigaom

Jeff John Roberts:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a patent lawsuit against Apple and its suppliers this week, claiming that semiconductor wafers found in the company’s computers and mobile devices infringe on a patent obtained by two academics more than 15 years ago.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Boston federal court, claims that Idaho-based Micron Technology knew about a laser-cutting method described in the patent, but used it all the same when supplying DRAM semiconductor devices for products like iPhones, iPads and MacBook Airs.

The patent itself was issued to Joseph Bernstein, who is now an engineering professor in Israel, and a co-inventor, Zhihui Duan. MIT claims it controls the right to the patent, which has a 1997 filing date and was issued in 2000. The school says it’s entitled to damages and to royalties on all Apple products that contain chips using the laser method in question.

Seems that this is a lawsuit for Micron, not Apple, though MIT claims Apple commits contributory infringement by importing and selling equipment containing specific Micron products.


Apple’s Titan Car Project to Challenge Tesla » WSJ

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Mike Ramsey, following up on the FT report by Tim Bradshaw and Andy Sharman:

Apple may decide not to proceed with a car. In addition, many technologies used in an electric car, such as advanced batteries and in-car electronics, would be useful to other Apple products, including the iPhone and iPad. Apple often investigates technologies and potential products, going as far as building multiple prototypes for some things that it won’t ever sell. Any product would take several years to complete and obtain safety certifications.

But the size of the project team and some of the people assigned to it indicate that the company is serious, these people said. Apple executives have flown to Austria to meet with contract manufacturers for high-end cars including the Magna Steyr unit of Canadian auto supplier Magna International Inc.

What needs to be improved in cars? What can be improved in cars? This sets up a fascinating scenario, given Google’s semi-position in this game.


How Apple keeps the competition whipped » Tech.pinions

Steve Wildstrom (who is, happily, recovered from brain surgery):

Apple has an interest in autos, but that certainly is for developing systems for cars–support for the iPhone is already common and is likely to be expanded–but not designing or building cars. Although cars are increasingly wheeled computers, everything about their manufacture — their regulation, their sales, their ownership — is dramatically different from anything Apple knows.

The car business also violates Apple’s core move that new products should quickly be profitable. Tesla is in its fifth year and its losses are growing at about the same rate as its sales. CEO Elon Musk admits profits are still quite a distance away. Apple could afford to buy Tesla in the extremely unlikely chance Musk was interested in selling it but it simply does not fit its approach to business. Starting a new car company would be even more complex, more expensive, and less practical.

Even with the report over the weekend of Apple hiring a team with car expertise, his point about buying Tesla is an excellent one. Apple doesn’t buy lossmaking established businesses – with one exception: NeXT Computer in 1996.


Google is shutting down Google Helpouts, its expert video chat service » TechCrunch

Sarah Perez:

The idea with Helpouts has been to leverage Google’s identity tools, payment technologies and online video service in order to provide web users with both free and paid advice and support sessions covering a range of topics. Today, the Helpouts website continues to work, offering sessions on topics like Photography, Parenting, Fashion and Beauty, Cooking and much more. Unfortunately for Google, much of this sort of advice is already available for free on its other video site, YouTube. While YouTube videos may not connect you with a live person in real-time, they can often give you the answers you’re looking for, and YouTube’s advertisements help the videos’ creators generate additional income.

Google’s Helpouts service has not been without its challenges on the monetization front, either. A couple of months ago, Google had to shut down paid Helpouts in the EU thanks to changing tax laws. Today, the website advises providers from the U.K. and Ireland that they may only offer free Helpouts, and EU customers may only take free Helpouts. That’s likely been a blow to the service’s ability to attract providers and consumers in these markets.

Survival: 531 days. “It hasn’t grown at the pace we expected,” Google says. Note also the first comment on Hacker News from when it launched.


October 2014: Google’s product strategy: Make two of everything » Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo in a piece from October 2014 that is very relevant in that light:

Judging by Google’s messy and often-confusing product line, it’s something the company takes to heart. Google likes to have multiple, competing products that go after the same user base. That way, if one product doesn’t work out, hopefully the other one will.

The most extreme case of this has been Google’s instant messaging solutions. At one point there were four different ways to send a text message on Android: Google Talk, Google+ Messenger, Messaging (Android’s SMS app), and Google Voice. Google Hangouts came along and eventually merged everything into a single instant messaging platform.

Mercifully, Google has a single, unified instant messaging program now, and all further IM efforts will be poured into this, right? Wrong. A report from The Economic Times of India says that Google is working on a fifth instant messaging program. This one reportedly won’t require a Google account and will be aimed at Whatsapp. In KitKat Google removed the stock SMS app and used Hangouts for SMSes, but in Lollipop it is adding back an SMS client, so soon we could potentially be back up to three texting clients. The unified Hangouts update also added a second dialer app to Android, so now there is the main Google Dialer that was introduced in KitKat and a new Hangouts Dialer that makes VOIP calls. Users went from needing IM unity, having it, then chaotically clamoring for dialer unity.

At the price of annoying and/or confusing the users, of course. Notable that it has never felt the need to A/B its front search page.


Samsung’s Microsoft deal and Cyanogen » Beyond Devices

After the rumours of that Microsoft-Samsung app deal, Jan Dawson comments:

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if at least some flavor of Cyanogen devices in future come with Microsoft apps and services where the Google ones would normally be. We won’t see Microsoft launching another Android-based line of devices, but rather an Android-based line of devices that puts Microsoft’s services and apps front and center. That, after all, is the real goal here: getting Microsoft’s services in front of as many customers as possible, integrated into the platform in a way that makes them the default options for key tasks, and which provides benefits across the platform. Windows Phone has been the only platform where that’s been true, but Cyanogen could easily become a second. Quite what Cyanogen’s current customer base would make of that is unclear, but then Cyanogen’s future depends on broadening its appeal way beyond the hackers and tinkerers who flash alternative ROMs on their Android devices, and Microsoft could be a great fit there.

Yes. Absolutely. This is a terrific solution for both Cyanogen and for Microsoft – but a looming problem for Google if Microsoft can begin to impose its services on millions of phones.


Steam Review Watch » Tumblr

” Just don’t,don’t even,just please no…DON’T BUY IT ! 🙂 ” – 999.8 hours played.

” *****DONT LET MY HOURS FOOL YOU!!**** This is probably the most terrible game of all time. ” – 239.7 hours played.

And many more reviews from the toughest (and most entitled?) audience ever. (Via @daveverwer of iOS Dev Weekly.)