Andrew Nusca is a senior editor at Fortune .
Google will introduce Home, its Amazon Echo competitor, at its I/O developer’s conference today, according to a rash of news reports published yesterday.
I’ll certainly be watching. Echo (and its voice-activated personal assistant, Alexa) were the surprise hit of last summer and a rare hardware hit for a company that changed the world with the Kindle e-reader but also produced the flop known as the Fire phone. But what has been most fascinating about Amazon's device is how Echo has become a gateway drug for the connected home.
I know Michael Wolf agrees. The Activate CEO and I were both dinner guests of Fortune Tech alum David Kirkpatrick last week, and this very subject came up as the appetizers hit the table. Michael smartly said that Echo could be the gadget that finally breaks through the frustrations of the so-called Internet of things, at least as it pertains to consumers. I heartily agreed—one of the many reasons I’ve shunned such gadgetry is because it’s too often more trouble than it’s worth. (When you do what I do, your tolerance evaporates quickly.)
Which brings me back to Google Home. If it’s anything like Echo, it will let you summon a taxi, order dinner, or check in on how the NBA draft lottery is shaping up. (Congratulations, my dear Philadelphia 76ers.) None of these things by themselves are that groundbreaking. And the machine learning, speech recognition, and artificial intelligence technologies such devices use can be rudimentary.
But Echo clearly changed the way regular people interact with the connected home. You don’t need to be the family IT guy to get value from it, however small. You don’t need to spend a Saturday trying to make gadgets work with each other. Done right, Home could do the same for Google. And together, they could start to crack a market that Gartner, the market research firm, already estimates is worth $546 billion this year.
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BITS AND BYTES
There could have been an Oracle phone. The software giant's co-CEO Safra Catz spent more time in court Tuesday testifying in Oracle's copyright suit against Google over Java licensing. She said Oracle lost millions in potential licensing fees from other manufacturers because Google undercut what Oracle could charge them to use Java as the operating system. (Reuters, Bloomberg)
Dell sells $20 billion in bonds to finance EMC takeover. The secured, investment-grade notes will mature over the next three to 30 years. They'll pay higher interest rates than most comparably rated bonds, in part because of the high demand. The sale is the fourth largest bond deal on record. (Wall Street Journal)
Amazon to open more stores. So far, the e-commerce giant has only one official store near its Seattle headquarters. But it is constructing one in San Diego and plans an unspecified number of additional sites, according to remarks made by CEO Jeff Bezos during the company's annual shareholder meeting. (Wall Street Journal)
HP Inc. plans two business-class 3D printers. The technology is intended for creating prototypes or for producing larger batches of items, such as small clamps for controlling the amount of liquid flowing through hoses. The first of the two printers is due by the end of 2016. The price point for the low-end one starts at $130,000. (Fortune)
IBM will part ways with campus designed by I.M. Pei. The company will move approximately 2,000 employees in Somers, N.Y., to a new facility in the neighboring town of North Castle by March 2017. IBM plans to sell the 700-acre campus, which was completed in 1989. (Wall Street Journal)
Apple commits to software lab in India. The facility will serve developers creating apps for the iOS platform. More than 100 million smartphones were sold in the country last year, and sales could expand 25% over the next 12 months. Apple also plans to expand an existing facility in Hyderabad, where Microsoft has a local presence. CEO Tim Cook arrived India on Tuesday. He is meeting with both government officials and potential partners. (Reuters, Wall Street Journal)
Intel may get more iPhone business than previously thought. The chipmaker may supply up to half of the modem chips for the next edition of the smartphone, reports trade publication DigiTimes. Qualcomm is the dominant supplier for the current generation of devices, but Intel is angling for some of that business. (Fortune)
UPS and SAP make it simpler to order 3D parts, on demand. Last year the logistics company started adding 3D printing stations to its store locations. Its new relationship with business software company SAP will make it simpler for businesses to place orders, which can then be shipped to the appropriate supply-chain location—sometimes within one day. (Fortune)
Another day, another SAP alliance. This time, it is tightening its ties to Microsoft. The deal should ensure that the two companies' various cloud computer services and applications work well together. (Fortune)
Target names chief digital officer. Jason Goldberger, who is currently president of the mobile division and Target.com, will report to Target's chairman and CEO Brian Cornell. E-commerce accounts for less than 5% of the retailer's sales today, but more than 25 million people are using its mobile app to research purchases. (Recode, ZDNet)
Girls outperform boys on first-ever federal test of tech skills. Among eighth-graders assessed for tech "literacy," girls scored particularly well at skills associated with software development and project collaboration. The not-so-good news is that overall results were pretty sobering—only half the 21,500 tested students were considered technologically proficient. (Fortune)
This is how the fourth urban tech revolution will unfold. Three great technological revolutions have transformed our cities and the lives of the people who inhabit them. Now a fourth revolution, powered by sensors and smartphones, is underway and it will change the way we experience urban life all over again.
This, anyway, is the bold vision put forth by the Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet that is dedicated to urban technology.
According to Doctoroff, the towns of 2016 will be unrecognizable as unlimited broadband connectivity, coupled with sensors, social networks and big data collection, give planners unprecedented insight into how people and goods move around. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
How to make sense of sensor data by Jonathan Vanian
The dangerous march of China's tech companies by Michael Wade
Alibaba's Jack Ma skips anti-counterfeit convention by Scott Cendrowski
Cloud upstart NetSuite overhauls accounting system by Heather Clancy
Apple Pay rival MCX faces delays and layoffs by Leena Rao
LED streetlights may not be effective in reducing energy usage
by Aaron Pressman
Apple squashes app that warned when your iPhone was hacked
by Don Reisinger
ONE MORE THING
Here's Bill Gates' latest summer reading list. The Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist admits there is no science to how he picks these titles each year, but mathematics and science dominate the subject matter. (Fortune)