Data Sheet—Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Google is famous for coming to the market late. The search-engine business was well established before it arrived, and yet the company managed to take the lead. It now dominates the category. But can it do the same thing in the smart home?
The web giant is expected to launch a standalone device called simply Google Home on Tuesday, a device that it hopes will become the centerpiece of the smart home, and provide some strong competition for the well-established Amazon Echo. But it will be an uphill battle.
Even the fact that Google is fighting this kind of come-from-behind war seems a little bizarre. After all, it is the king of web knowledge, with literally thousands of Ph.D.’s working on artificial intelligence. It even has a well-received smart mobile assistant called Google Now.
Despite all of this expertise, the company seems to have been caught flat-footed by the Echo and its success. Amazon already has two years of product experience in the market, and Google is only now coming out with version one of its device.
Obviously, the smart home is in its infancy, so it’s not as though Google is out of the race. If it takes a smart approach to the Home device and finds ways of adding value that Amazon has not—such as opening up its device to a wide range of services and standards—then it has a chance. But it must put the pedal to the metal.
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BITS AND BYTES
Salesforce spends millions on hot marketing startup. The cloud software giant extended its acquisition spree with a $700 million deal for analytics company Krux. The technology will be part of Salesforce’s artificial intelligence strategy, which it has dubbed Einstein. (Fortune)
IBM sees tipping point for industrial Internet. Nearly a third of corporate customers responding to a recent IDC market survey said they have launched IoT projects, while another 42% said they plan to do so in the next 12 months. That’s one reason IBM plans to hire more than 1,000 IoT specialists at its German office over the next several years. (Reuters)
Here’s what UPS finds interesting about drones. For now, the logistics company is testing very specific drone-delivery projects such as using the devices to fly into remote locations to deliver emergency supplies. A broader, more widespread consumer drone delivery service appears to be years away. (Fortune)
J.P. Morgan sees no need to create its own blockchain network. The bank is departing from many peers with its approach to developing services that use blockchain, a ledger technology that controls and secures digital currency or contract transfers. Instead, its Quorum project relies on the software behind the Ethereum network, the brainchild of 22-year-old Vitalik Buterin. (Wall Street Journal)
Microsoft pushes pauses on wearables strategy. The company quietly pulled the Band 2 fitness gadget from its online store, and it doesn’t plan to release a replacement any time this year. The first edition, released in 2014, never really gained traction. Microsoft said in mid-September that it still plans to invest in data analytics services for wearables. (Ars Technica, The Verge, ZDNet)
Facebook looks for more places to fly its drones. The social network is eager to bring Internet services to rural regions and emerging economies. Regulations in the U.S. and Europe make trials tough. (Just ask Amazon.) But Facebook is talking to several countries about experiments involving its solar-powered, Internet-broadcasting Aquila aircraft, reports The Wall Street Journal. The tests could take flight by 2018. (Wall Street Journal)
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
PayPal names Venmo, Braintree strategist as new COO. William Ready, 37, has been the global product and engineering chief since January. He joined PayPal as part of the 2013 acquisitions of Braintree, a payment service for larger merchants, and Venmo, the peer-to-peer money transfer app. (Wall Street Journal)
How Lady Gaga’s manager became a Silicon Valley force. Troy Carter’s path to tech moguldom was unlikely, until he met investor Joe Lonsdale in 2010. Since that time, he has backed more than 80 tech startups, and now works as general partner of his VC firm, Cross Culture Ventures. Trivia: he’s the only investor who backed both Lyft and Uber. (Fortune)
Why Microsoft’s president thinks tech needs to be more inclusive. Breakthroughs in cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and smarter devices bring an abundance of opportunity. But the benefits must be available to everyone, according to Microsoft’s chief legal officer Brad Smith. (Fortune)
Software patents are in peril. The end may be in sight for software patents—which have long been highly controversial in the tech industry—in the wake of a remarkable appeals court ruling that described such patents as a “deadweight loss on the nation’s economy” and a threat to the First Amendment’s free speech protections.
The ruling, issued last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, found that three patents asserted against anti-virus companies Symantec and Trend Micro were invalid because they did not describe a patentable invention. The patents were owned by Intellectual Ventures, which has a notorious reputation in the tech world as a so-called “patent troll,” a phrase that describes firms that buy up old patents and wage lawsuits in order to demand payments from productive companies. The opinion is consistent with a larger skepticism on the part of courts towards software patents. Here’s why it cloud lead more judges to reject them outright.
WATCH FOR IT
Salesforce beats drum for smarter, more collaborative software. IBM has touted Watson, its take on artificial intelligence, for at least five years. Salesforce started talking up the technology—at its most basic, a sort of software that teaches itself how to perform tasks—just a few months ago. But the leader in sales software is prepared to demonstrate this week that it’s ready for this brave new world with smart new online services, some available now, but the majority scheduled to roll out over the next year. Read more about how Salesforce plans to make artificial intelligence accessible for mere mortals.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Facebook Debuts Craigslist Competitor, by Leena Rao
Cybersecurity Firm Carbon Black Files Quietly for an IPO, by Robert Hackett
Target Launches Website Just for Startups, by Leena Rao
Adoptions Are Soaring for iPhone 7 and iOS 10, by Don Reisinger
ONE MORE THING
New Jersey town shelves parking lot with Uber’s help. Like many suburbs close to New York City, Summit, N.J., struggles with demand for parking next to its commuter train station. Spots are often gone long before rush hour is over. Rather than building another garage, the town is teaming with Uber in a first-of-its-kind program to take commuters to and from the station. (The Verge)