Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for March 2019

Bull Run

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The 2019 bull run continues.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 211.22 points higher at 25,928.68 today, and CNBC reports that the S&P 500 has notched its best start to a year since 1998. 

What happened to that inverted bond yield???

Perhaps that’s all just more goodness for the soon-to-be rampant unicorns, including Lyft, whose IPO float today send the stock trading up 8.7 percent to $78.29, with more than 70 million shares trading on its first day as a public company. 

That lifted Lyft’s market valuation to $22.2 billion.

Other unicorns likely to be unleashed into the wild soon? Uber, Slack, Pinterest, among others.

Just remember, Lyft is currently #2 in the ride-hailing pecking order and lost $900 million in 2018.

While we’re on the subject of moolah, let’s talk about TechCrunch’s story about consumer spending on apps.

Sarah Perez’s headline suggests that spending will reach $156 billion across iOS and Google Play by 2023. Yes, you read that right.

That research estimate came from app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower, and suggests that both stores will more than double their revenues over the next five years. That’s +16.8 percent CAGR, if you’re counting along.

Getting further down into the numbers, that’s an estimated $96 billion for Apple and $60 billion for Google, with Apple taking nearly 62 percent of all revenue generated by the two platforms.

To put that in perspective, the global film industry was worth an estimated $136 billion as of 2018.

Time to hone those developer skills, because the bull run appears to continue across the board.

Written by turbotodd

March 29, 2019 at 3:50 pm

Itch for a Twitch

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Twitch got an itch for a new type of Twitch, so they’ve added “Squad Stream,” a few feature that will let up to four Twitch streamers go live simultaneously in one window.

According to a report from The Verge, this new feature will make it easier for viewers to watch the action from four different angles and provide bigger channels the opportunity to host smaller creators and share their screen with the audience as well.

Meanwhile, MacRumors reports that Apple has released watchOS 5.2, the fifth update to the watchOS operating system that runs on modern Apple Watch models.  this version expands the availability of the electrocardiogram app to Hong Kong and 19 European countries.

There are also two new watch faces for Hermes watches that match the spring Hermes band collection. The update also introduced support for the Apple News+ feature added to iOS earlier this week.

And Facebook continues to be under the gun for its ad targeting practices. The Department of Housing and Urban Development filed charges against the company today for violating the Fair Housing Act by encouraging, enabling, and causing housing discrimination through the company’s advertising platform.

According to a report from Axios, HUD alleges that Facebook unlawfully discriminates against users by restricting who can view housing-related ads on Facebook platform and across the internet.

  • It also alleges that Facebook mines extensive data about its users “and then uses those data to determine which of its users view housing-related ads based, in part, on these protected characteristics.”
  • The charge also claims that Facebook groups users who have similar attributes and behaviors — unrelated to housing — via machine learning and presumes a shared interest or disinterest in housing-related advertisements.
  • HUD says this process functions “just like an advertiser who intentionally targets or excludes users based on their protected class.”

This a day after Facebook banned white nationalism and separatism on the platform, a policy which will be officially implemented next week according to a report from Motherboard.

Specifically, Facebook will now ban content that includes explicit praise, support, or representation of white nationalism or separatism. Phrases such as “I am a proud white nationalist” and “Immigration is tearing this country apart; white separatism is the only answer” will now be banned, according to the company. Implicit and coded white nationalism and white separatism will not be banned immediately, in part because the company said it’s harder to detect and remove.

 The decision was formally made at Facebook’s Content Standards Forum on Tuesday, a meeting that includes representatives from a range of different Facebook departments in which content moderation policies are discussed and ultimately adopted. Fishman told Motherboard that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was involved in the formulation of the new policy, though roughly three dozen Facebook employees worked on it.

Just another day in the life of Facebook circa 2019.

Written by turbotodd

March 28, 2019 at 10:46 am

Posted in 2019, AI

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End of the AI Winter?

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Congrats go out to Yann LeCun, Geoffrey Hinton, and Yoshua Bengio, three researchers whose work on neural networks led to their being awarded this year’s Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery.

The Turing Award was introduced in 1966 and includes a $1 million prizee, which the three scientists will share, according to a report from The New York Times.

Over the past decade, the big idea nurtured by these researchers has reinvented the way technology is built, accelerating the development of face-recognition services, talking digital assistants, warehouse robots and self-driving cars. Dr. Hinton is now at Google, and Dr. LeCun works for Facebook. Dr. Bengio has inked deals with IBM and Microsoft.

“What we have seen is nothing short of a paradigm shift in the science,” said Oren Etzioni, the chief executive officer of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle and a prominent voice in the A.I. community. “History turned their way, and I am in awe.”

The Verge also recognized the trio, suggesting that their persistence helped bring a close to the seemingly interminable AI winter:

The trio’s achievements are particularly notable as they kept the faith in artificial intelligence at a time when the technology’s prospects were dismal.

AI is well-known for its cycles of boom and bust, and the issue of hype is as old as the field itself. When research fails to meet inflated expectations it creates a freeze in funding and interest known as an “AI winter.” It was at the tail end of one such winter in the late 1980s that Bengio, Hinton, and LeCun began exchanging ideas and working on related problems. These included neural networks — computer programs made from connected digital neurons that have become a key building block for modern AI.

“There was a dark period between the mid-90s and early-to-mid-2000s when it was impossible to publish research on neural nets, because the community had lost interest in it,” says LeCun. “In fact, it had a bad rep. It was a bit taboo.”

Perhaps the AI winter is over and sprin is coming.

In any case, there’s plenty more to do, but this is well-deserved recognition for some of AI’s most recent pioneers operating on the far reaches of the frontier.

Written by turbotodd

March 27, 2019 at 11:44 am

Posted in 2019, AI

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Dick’s Sporting Software

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Interesting read from The Wall Street Journal’s “CIO Journal” about Dick’s Sporting Goods building all of its software in house:

Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. is betting that building all its software in house, as opposed to relying on third-party vendors, will give it a competitive advantage.

Chief Technology Officer Paul Gaffney is spearheading the effort after taking a similar approach at his previous employer, Home Depot Inc.

“In a lot of retail, there’s been a tradition that tools were designed at headquarters and inflicted on the store [employees]. We’ve been trying to turn that around,” said Mr. Gaffney, who joined Dick’s in late 2017.

In 2019, Gaffney indicates that his staff “will finish the transition to in-house software for all its e-commerce platforms, after developing new software for inventory tracking.”

The eight-person team that developed the inventory software has a self-imposed goal to earn at least 10 times the cost of the team in annual revenue. The goal was set in October and the team is about halfway there, Mr. Gaffney said, adding that he tells his staff: “Don’t get excited about shipping a feature—get excited about when the feature turns into revenue and turns into profit.”

Example: 

Thanks to its tech overhaul, Dick’s is now able to list sports products online within 30 minutes of a major event, such as a championship win or a player trade, Mr. Gaffney said. Previously, that used to take three to five days, he said. “Our ability to do that really depends on us controlling all of the elements of the pipeline,” he said.

The story points out that Dick’s e-commerce sales have increased 17 percent in the quarter ended February 2 from the year-earlier period, and that “transforming the technology group has improved productivity and the customer experience.”

The new inventory software—developed by a team comprising six engineers, a design manager and a product manager—was deployed to all stores in September. The tool provides real-time product information, inventory availability and alternative product recommendations. Ease of use is a priority for all newly built technology, because it helps attract younger talent used to consumer technology products, Mr. Gaffney said. Dick’s is one of several companies who are revamping technology to suit the millennial workforce.

Build it and they will come…and buy.

Written by turbotodd

March 26, 2019 at 12:48 pm

You Deserve a Break Today

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Ronald McDonald is getting personal.

Because Mickey D’s just went through its own drive-thru to spend more than $300 million on a deal to acquire personalization company, Dynamic Yield.

According to a report from TechCrunch, Ronald and company will use DY’s technolgoy to create a drive-thru menu that can be tailored to things like the weather, current restaurant traffic, and trending menu items. And…

Once you’ve started ordering, the display can also recommend additional items based on what you’ve already chosen.

Two-all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles…would you like fries with that? Perhaps a Diet Cherry Coke?

If that was a drive through deal, Uber just announced a drive by one, agreeing to buy its Middle East rival Careem for $3.1 billion. 

Based in Dubai, Careem claims more than 30 million registered users in 120 cities across North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. CNBC is reporting that the companies characterized the deal as “the biggest-ever technology industry transaction in the greater Middle East.”

According to Uber’s press release, Careem will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Uber, operating as an independent company under the Careem brand and led by Careem founders.

Uber will acquire all of Careem’s mobility, delivery, and payments businesses across the greater Middle East region, ranging from Morocco to Pakistan, with major markets including Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

This is an important moment for Uber as we continue to expand the strength of our platform around the world. With a proven ability to develop innovative local solutions, Careem has played a key role in shaping the future of urban mobility across the Middle East, becoming one of the most successful startups in the region. Working closely with Careem’s founders, I’m confident we will deliver exceptional outcomes for riders, drivers, and cities, in this fast-moving part of the world,” said Uber CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi.

Sounds to me like the whole region may soon be in need of a Lyft.

Written by turbotodd

March 26, 2019 at 9:58 am

Posted in 2019, acquisitions

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Send A Telegram

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Happy Monday.

There’s been no end of excitement here in Austin the past few weeks.

First, we had a good ten days of SXSW. Then this weekend an apparently very exciting Indy Race.

And this week, the WGC returns to Austin Country Club for the Dell Technologies Match Play golf tournament.

It’s enough to make one want to send a telegram.

And BleekingComputer is reporting that one can do just that, with more privacy capability than ever, with the new and improved Telegram app.

Telegram announced today they have had added a feature that allows users to delete any message in a one-on-one chat and have ti be removed from both chat user’s devices.

This builds on the initial “unsend” feature which allowed users to remove any message they’d sent within the last 48 hours fromm both devices.

“Today, we are giving hundreds of millions of users complete control of any private conversation they have ever had,” Telegram stated in a blog post. “You can now choose to delete any message you have sent or received from both sides in any private chat. The messages will disappear for both you and the other person – without leaving a trace.”

I would imagine this feature will be very popular with journalists, whistleblowers, and human rights activists everywhere.

Written by turbotodd

March 25, 2019 at 11:46 am

Posted in 2019, messaging, privacy

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Apple TV

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This is the kind of data I like to pass on just three days before Apple starts its own “Game of Thrones” programming play geared at the incumbent filmed content distributors.

What’s New In Publishing is reporting that smartphones are the big gainers in media consumption according to the Nielsen Q3 2018 Total Audience Report.

Specifically, the Nielsen data shows there’s been a “significant jump” in mobile time-spent among 18-34s, from 29 to 34 percent. Growth, WNIP notes, which came at the expense of television.

It goes on to note that this trend “continues from a year earlier, as live and time-shifted TV (traditional cable, set-top box viewing) was surpassed by mobile in Q3 2017.

For all US audiences, mobile went up from 21 to 24 percent, with media consumption otherwise remaining flat at about 10.5 hours per day.

To whit I ask, don’t any of you people working for a living?

In terms of platforms, YouTube was the big winner per its 37 percent of all mobile Internet traffic. Facebook and Snapchat were both less than 9 percent. Interestingly, Netflix only garnered 2.4 percent of mobile traffic.

So with that as a prelude, what is expected of Apple’s Monday announce?  

The Verge’s sneak peak suggests two things, Apple Video and an Apple News subscription service. 

Though Apple has already had a big screen content play with its Apple TV device, this new video service could bring the prestige of Apple’s brand into Netflix- or Hulu-like experience (although notably Netflix won’t be participating in the Apple Video offering, according to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings).

However, rather than being just the distributor and aggregator, much like they were with the original iPod, this time they’re going to be in the business of backing horses (making content). 

What will determine its success?

Simple. Will the content be good enough, and the price aggressive enough, to convince Apple loyalists to subscribe to yet another streaming service.

If not, Apple Video could go the way of the Newton. 

Written by turbotodd

March 22, 2019 at 10:43 am

Posted in 2019, apple, hollywood

Tagged with , ,

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