Turbotodd

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

Archive for the ‘2019’ Category

Amazon’s AI Coalmine Canary

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Happy Thursday.

So Amazon has announced that it is going to spend $700M to retrain 100K of its workers (a third of its workforce) by 2025, and seems to be doing so as an acknowledgment partly due to the impact of technology and automation on jobs.

Plus, it’s just good, smart business.

Subheads directly from the Amazon press release:

Programs will help Amazonians from all backgrounds access training to move into highly skilled technical and non-technical roles across the company’s corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores, and transportation network, or pursue career paths outside of Amazon

Based on a review of its workforce and analysis of U.S. hiring, Amazon’s fastest growing highly skilled jobs over the last five years include data mapping specialist, data scientist, solutions architect and business analyst, as well as logistics coordinator, process improvement manager and transportation specialist within our customer fulfillment network

Employee upskilling investment builds on Amazon’s $15 minimum wage and comprehensive benefits including medical insurance, 401k savings plan, and generous parental leave

I like BI’s headline: “Jeff Bezos just sent a clear signal that AI will remake American jobs.”

Deadend Jobs – Skills Retraining + Artificial Intelligence and/or Robotic Automation = Canary in the Coalmine.

Retrain, or become a Luddite.

Meanwhile, the French have passed a 3 percent digital services tax on sales in France for large Internet companies with over 25M Euros in French revenues. 

Expect U.S. retaliatory tariffs from Monsieur Trump, tout suite!

Next: Bird scooters are losing money hand over handlebars, some $100M in the first quarter, with revenue shrinking to about $15M. 

But hey, go ahead and continue stringing scooters across the downtown Austin landscape in a bid to drive up your next Series round.

You’re gonna need it if you only have $100M left in the scooter piggy bank!

Finally, I said to anyone who would listen in 1999 that one day, privacy would be considered a competitive differentiator. Well, I finally feel vindicated, and not dealing with privacy and data protection is finally carrying a hefty price that business can no longer ignore.

OneTrust, a company which builds tools to help companies navigate data protection and privacy policies both internally and with its customers, has raised $200M in a Series A and that values the company at $1.3B.

Billion, with a “B.”  That should buy lots of privacy.

Written by turbotodd

July 11, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Slackers?

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Happy Hump Day.

If you’re a Nintendo fan of any sorts, you should know this: The Nintendo Switch Lite is arriving September 20th, and it will only put you back $200.

That’s $100 less than the original Switch. The new Switch won’t have detachable Joy-Con controllers and can’t plug into a TV, which is why C|NET posed the inevitable question: What’s the point of a Switch that doesn’t Switch?

Methinks that could be getting a bit too philosophical, especially when it comes to video game systems. The original Switch sold 34 million systems (and counting), so I suspect there’s a market out there for a slimmer, even more portable version.

Meanwhile, back on the enterprise ranch, the IBM Red Hat deal has finally closed. The  $34B deal was IBM’s largest ever, and we now know the Red Hat brand will operate as a unit inside IBM’s Cloud and Cognitive Software segment.

From Barron’s:

IBM asserted in its announcement today that most enterprises are about 20% through their transition to the cloud. The next phase for many companies, IBM says, “Is about shifting mission-critical workloads to the cloud and optimizing everything from supply chains to core banking systems.

In its announcement, IBM emphasized that it remains committed to open-source software and to keeping Red Hat as a neutral vendor.

Also on the enterprise front…here’s a provocative headline from Recode: “Microsoft might crush Slack like Facebook crushed Snapchat.”

Subhead: “Microsoft Teams isn’t better than Slack, but it is freer.”

Remind anyone of browser partying like it’s 1999??

The lede:

Tech workers’ favorite communications tool, Slack, is losing ground to its biggest rival, Microsoft Teams, which has copied its way into popularity. In other words, Slack has the same problem as Snapchat, which has suffered from its bigger rival Facebook’s relentless appropriation.

Slack’s market share among the world’s largest companies is mostly flat, adoption rates are declining, and a bigger portion of these companies indicate they plan on leaving the service, according to a new survey by market research firm ETR, which asks chief information officers and other leaders at the world’s biggest organizations* where they plan to spend their company’s tech budget.

Meanwhile, Teams is seeing increased market share, relatively higher adoption rates, and low rates of defection, according to the data.

Good thing Slack floated like an IPO before it got stung by the Microsoft Teams bee!

Written by turbotodd

July 10, 2019 at 11:11 am

Bixby’s Store

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Happy Monday morning, Happy Independence Day (Short) week here in the U.S.

So there’s more coming out re: Jony Ive’s departure from Apple. 

From a TechMeme headline summarizing a WSJ piece: Jony Ive was dispirited by Tim Cook’s lack of interest in the product development process and frustrated inside a more operations-focused company

If it’s TL;dr for you, the article feels human-centric design got pushed to the margin after Jobs’ moved on, and supply chain- and ops-centric Tim Cook was focused on what he did best, which was NOT human-centric design.

The key question is, what happens next, and it’s probably too soon to tell. But considering that the companys last major innovation on Ive’s watch (and post Jobs) was the Apple Watch, which  introduced on April 24, 2015…well, it may be about time to introduce something new and innovative. 

Can they? Will they? As President Trump likes to see, “We’ll see what happens.”

Meanwhile, on the Samsung front…that company has launched its Bixby Marketplace, which is a dedicated store where third-party developers can offer their own Bixby-compatible services. The store is now open for both US and South Korean customers.

Think of Bixby as Samsung’s Siri or Alexa equivalent.

More about the new store:

The marketplace is available through the main Bixby page on Samsung phones, though the company eventually intends to include it as part of the main Galaxy app store. Through the marketplace, users can search for services — which Samsung calls “capsules” — that enhance Bixby.

These capsules are categorized by type, such as “travel and transportation,” “food and drink,” “sports,” “shopping,” and “productivity,” and many well-known apps are featured at launch, including from Spotify, Uber, Google Maps, Yelp, and YouTube.

And there’s much more.

Recent funding rounds..Industrial AR headset maker RealWear raised an $80M Series B…Israel-Based NeuroBlade AI chip maker raised a $23M Series A with support from Intel Capital…Zero-commission wholesale marketplace Tundra announced a $12M Series A…China-based robotic process automation startup Laiye raised a $35M Series B…and AI-based fraud detection and prevention system provider for banks raised a $10M Series A.

Written by turbotodd

July 1, 2019 at 10:18 am

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes at Apple

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Big news at Apple this week…Longtime creative guru Jony Ive will be leaving Apple later this year after more than 20 years at the company. Ive is leaving to start LoveFrom, his own creative agency, and has already landed apple as its first client.

Daring Fireball noted “this dropped like a bomb,” apparently because nobody in the media had been given a heads up. Uh, this is Apple we’re talking about, when do they ever warn the media about anything of significance.

John Gruber continued::

It makes me queasy to see that Apple’s chief designers are now reporting to operations. This makes no more sense to me than having them report to the LLVM compiler team in the Xcode group. Again, nothing against Jeff Williams, nothing against the LLVM team, but someone needs to be in charge of design for Apple to be Apple and I can’t see how that comes from operations. I don’t think that “chief design officer” should have been a one-off title created just for Jony Ive. Not just for Apple, but especially at Apple, it should be a permanent C-level title. I don’t think Ive ever should have been put in control of software design, but at least he is a designer.

I don’t worry that Apple is in trouble because Johnny Ive is leaving; I worry that Apple is in trouble because he’s not being replaced.”
Another reaction, from Stratechery:

I understand Gruber’s angst. It is precisely that sort of dictatorship, first and foremost in the person of Steve Jobs, that made Apple, Apple. Again, though, I think Ive is in part a cautionary tale: he did his best work under Jobs, while the last few years have been more fraught from a design perspective; if Ive was not entirely up to the task of being the ultimate arbiter of all things Apple, who can be?
That is why the conclusion I had after WWDC feels more applicable than ever: it is less that Jony Ive is leaving Apple, and more that Apple, for better or worse, and also by necessity, has left Jony Ive and the entire era that he represented. So it goes.

Others reported that I’ve had only been coming into the office twice a week since the release of the Apple Watch in 2015… hey, the only constant in the tech industry is change. Enough said.

But there’s more change at Apple. The Mac Pro, which had been touted by Apple CEO Tim Cook as having been manufactured in the U.S. (right here in Austin, actually), will now be outsourced to Quanta Computer Inc. in China.

Why this matters? From The Wall Street Journal:

While the Mac Pro isn’t one of Apple’s bigger products, the decision on where to make it carries outsize significance. Apple’s reliance on factories in China to manufacture its products has been an issue for the company, especially under President Trump, who has pressured Apple and other companies to make more in the U.S.

The spin:

Final assembly is only one part of the manufacturing process,” [an Apple] spokesman said, adding that the company’s investments support two million American jobs. The Mac Pro is Apple’s most powerful computer, used primarily by a small group of professionals working in industries such as film and videogames.

The global supply chain for tech manufacturers is a long and winding Silk Belt and Road!

Meanwhile, back on the AI front: Somerville, Massachusetts has become the second U.S. city (behind San Francisco) to ban facial recognition usage in public space. From Vice:

The "Face Surveillance Full Ban Ordinance," which passed through Somerville’s City Council on Thursday night, forbids any “department, agency, bureau, and/or subordinate division of the City of Somerville” from using facial recognition software in public spaces. The ordinance passed Somerville’s Legislative Matters Committee on earlier this week.

The ordinance defines facial surveillance as “an automated or semi-automated process that assists in identifying an individual, capturing information about an individual, based on the physical characteristics of an individual’s face,” which is operationally equivalent to facial recognition.

Now if someone could just find an AI bot to clean up all the poop in the streets of San Francisco!

Written by turbotodd

June 28, 2019 at 12:12 pm

Posted in 2019, apple, artificial intelligence, china

Tagged with , , ,

Apple Drive

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It’s already Wednesday?

I’ve got a jet plane to catch, but before I did, I wanted to convey a couple of stories that caught my eye.

First, back to the “Chimerica” trade wars.

The New York Times is reporting that U.S. tech companies that include Intel and Micron have found ways to sell millions of dollars of products to Huawei despite the Trump administration’s ban.

How?

Industry leaders including Intel and Micron have found ways to avoid labeling goods as American-made, said the people, who spoke on the condition they not be named because they were not authorized to disclose the sales.

Goods produced by American companies overseas are not always considered American-made. The components began to flow to Huawei about three weeks ago, the people said.

The sales will help Huawei continue to sell products such as smartphones and servers, and underscore how difficult it is for the Trump administration to clamp down on companies that it considers a national security threat, like Huawei. They also hint at the possible unintended consequences from altering the web of trade relationships that ties together the world’s electronics industry and global commerce.

And…Apple says it has acquired autonomous driving startup, Drive.ai, as well as hiring dozens of the company’s engineers and taking over its autonomous cars. 

The company was once valued at $200M, and Axios reports this deal and the hires “confirm that Apple hasn’t given up its autonomous driving project.”

No purchase price was disclosed.

Let’s hope this isn’t the road to nowhere for Apple and its autonomous driving strategy.

Written by turbotodd

June 26, 2019 at 9:37 am

LinkedIn, Algoed Up

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Happy Tuesday.

Yesterday was a bad tooth day. I had my first root canal since I don’t want to remember when. 

The headphones with classic rock with Pandora, some deep bone antisthetic shots to fully numb my tooth, and a steady stream of nitrous oxide made a root canal a nearly fun experience. 

Endondontists everywhere, more nitrous for all root canals.

While I was down in the endo’s chair, I learned this AM how a small ISP in Pennsylvania “tanked a big chunk of the Web” yesterday.

According to a story from Slate’s “Future Tense,” a Web outage in the Northeast affected “Verizon users and thousands of Website serviced by Cloudflare.”

Cloudflare provides security and performance services to 16 million websites and demonstrates how “one little error…can cause swaths of the Web to break with little warning.”

The outage started around 7 a.m. and affected Verizon before spreading to Amazon Web Services, web-hosting provider WP Engine, live-streaming platform Twitch, Reddit, and several others.

While we wait for the 404s to fade away, know that Axios is reporting some big time algo changes over at LinkedIn.

Axios reports the company has made the algorithm changes over the past 12-18 months to favor conversations in the LI feed that cater to “niche professional interests,” as opposed to elevating viral content. 

Specifically, Axios reports LinkedIn is focused on:

  • Elevating content that users are most likely to join in conversation, which typically means people that users interact with directly in the feed through comments and reactions, or people who have shared interests with you based on your profile.
  • Elevating a post from someone closer to a users’ interests or network if it needs more engagement, not if it’s already going viral.
  • Elevating conversations with things that encourage a response (like opinions commentary alongside content), as well as posts that use mentions and hashtags to bring other people and interests into the conversation and elevating posts from users that respond to commenters.
  • Elevating niche topics of conversation will perform better than broad ones. (When it comes to length, LinkedIn says its algorithm doesn’t favor any particular format, despite rumors that it does.)

This matters because…advertisers want higher-quality engagement, which in turn leads to happier advertisers, which in turn leads to more ad revenue for LI.

Have *you* noticed a difference in your LI feed?

Written by turbotodd

June 25, 2019 at 10:04 am

Tablets and Slackers

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Happy Friday.

Feels like this week blew by pretty quickly

So what’s the close of the week looking like for tech news?

First thing that caught my attention was Computerworld reporting that Google is officially done making its own tablets.

The last model, the Pixel Slate, was introduced into the market last year, and though Google apparently had two smaller-sized tablets under development, it opted to drop work on those devices and refocus its efforts on laptops.

For the record, I’m writing this post on a Google Pixelbook from 2018, a hybrid laptop-tablet that has exceeded my expectations (in terms of performance, etc.)

And Google also has its Pixel line of smartphones, so it probably makes sense to focus on a couple of form factors that represent where the market is leading, and to orient those efforts around Chrome OS.

Meanwhile, if you’re wondering which telco provider has the fastest mobile network in the U.S., PC Mag is reporting AT&T overtook Verizon this year for first place with its not-quite-full-5G offering, "5G Evolution."

AT&T has also secretly been helped by improvements in smartphone modems over the past two years. Wireless spectrum forms the lanes on which all smartphone traffic travels, and AT&T has more LTE spectrum than T-Mobile or Verizon, according to Fierce Wireless. But AT&T’s spectrum is typically highly fragmented, coming in many small pieces rather than a few large chunks. New modems are better able to aggregate a lot of small channels into one fast connection, which is working to AT&T’s advantage.

Next time you’re in a Walmart and thinking to yourself, "I think I’ll just walk out of here with this George Foreman Grill hidden under my jacket." Well, think again.

According to a report from The Verge, Walmart has been surveilling its checkout registers with a computer vision technology called "Missed Scan Detection" to identify when items move past the scanner without having been scanned.

The system runs on cameras that watch as items move across the register. If an unusual activity occurs, such as an item moving into a bag without being scanned, a checkout attendant will be notified to take action. Missed Scan Detection was designed to help reduce theft and other losses, a problem that has cost US retailers up to $47 billion in 2017.

And if you were wondering how Slack’s IPO worked out yesterday, it closed the day at $38.62, 48% above its $26 reference price (and valuing Slack at $20B).

Hardly a Slacker of an IPO…Keep an eye out for the floats of Postmates and Peloton soon.

Written by turbotodd

June 21, 2019 at 11:36 am

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