Mathew Ingram is a senior writer at Fortune.
There are a number of places where geeks like to congregate and spend time with their own people. Star Trek conventions, for example. But if you’re a certain kind of nerd, one of the invitations you most want to get is to Google’s I/O, the annual developer conference where the web giant talks about all of the cool new things it is working on.
Arguably the pinnacle of I/O experiences happened in 2012, when four skydivers in wingsuits jumped out of a blimp wearing Google Glass headsets, and live-streamed their descent to the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The latest version of the conference wasn’t quite that exciting, but it was a great example of how Google continues to simultaneously be one of the most interesting and also one of the most frustrating companies out there.
On the interesting side, Google announced a competitor to Amazon’s popular Echo home-automation hub called Google Home, which lets you search the web and play music by simply saying “OK, Google.” Yes, something with a human name like Alexa or Siri might have been a bit more interesting, but hey, this is Google we’re talking about.
Google also announced a couple of innovations designed to improve the lives of smartphone users (and boost Google’s market position). One is a smarter version of Google Now called Assistant, and the other is Android Instant Apps, which allows users to access certain features of mobile apps without having to install them.
And on the frustrating side? Well, to take just one example, the company announced a new messaging app called Allo, and a new video-calling app called Duo. But doesn’t Google already have a couple of messaging apps? Yup. There’s Messenger and Hangouts. And doesn’t one of them do video calling? It sure does. So why do we need new ones? A good question, and one that wasn’t really answered at I/O as far as we could tell.
There’s arguably no other company doing as many cool things on the web and mobile as Google. And yet there’s also probably no other company that shoves as many half-baked things out the door that will inevitably wind up being mothballed. Experimentation is good, but it can be frustrating as heck. On the upside though, all we have to do is wait until next year’s Google I/O, when we’ll get a bunch more cool new apps!
BITS AND BYTES
Yahoo bids will be lower than it hoped. The suitors in the Internet pioneer’s auction are expected to offer between $2 billion and $3 billion for the company’s various assets, reports The Wall Street Journal. The company was originally seeking as much as $10 billion, so there’s a chance that the process could fall apart. Verizon is still rumored as the front-runner. (Wall Street Journal)
Open source software on trial. Larry Page, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, testified Thursday that his company believed its use of the Java programming language when creating its Android mobile operating system fell under the fair-use provision of copyright laws. If Oracle wins its retrial of this intellectual property dispute, Google could owe billions of dollars in fines. The larger concern for many, however, is how such a verdict would impact the open-source software movement. Closing arguments begin next Monday. (Reuters, New York Times)
IMAX plans venues designed for virtual reality experiences. The strategy calls for six locations this year, starting with one in Los Angeles. IMAX also Thursday announced a collaboration with Alphabet, Google’s parent company, focused on creating a new camera designed for capturing images for VR applications. The first one is expected in about 18 months. (Wall Street Journal, Fortune)
Uber is testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh. The vehicle, a hybrid Ford Fusion, is being used to collect data for digital maps so it’s outfitted with a variety of sensors that also factor in autonomous cars such as laser scanners. (Fortune)
Samsung and Alibaba team up on mobile payments. The deal will make Samsung Pay available to the roughly 450 million Chinese users of Alipay, a service owned by one Alibaba’s affiliate companies, Ant Financial Services Group. South Korea’s Samsung used to be the top smartphone provider in the highly mobile country, but it now is ranked No. 6. (Wall Street Journal)
Soon you can use Android Pay at ATMs. Google is teaming up with Bank of America on technology that will enable its account holders to withdraw cash from its automatic teller machines using their smartphone instead of a physical debit card. The technology will show up first in the San Francisco Bay Area, but should reach 5,000 locations by the end of 2016, according to the companies. (Fortune)
GM-owned startup settles ownership dispute. Cruise Automation, which specializes in autonomous vehicle technology, was sued after the giant car company bought it earlier this year for a reported $1 billion. Under the settlement, Jeremy Guillory was acknowledged as a Cruise co-founder but no other details were disclosed. (Fortune)
Messaging apps are making QR codes a thing again. QR codes (short for “quick response”), the square, scannable, black and white bar codes, proliferated with the rise of smartphone cameras as a way to bridge the physical and digital worlds. If you see one in the wild, just scan it with your smartphone camera, and your phone will load whatever information its creator wants to share.
They’ve become a scourge of the design world, not just because of how ugly they are, but because they deliver a bad experience. To scan one, you need to download a specific app that can read QR codes. But to those working on messaging apps, notably Kik, QR codes are the future. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Our facial recognition nightmare is upon us by Jeff John Roberts
Google’s ambitious plan to remake the mobile web by Jonathan Vanian
Can ‘coding bootcamps’ fix the shortage of engineers? by Kia Kokalitcheva
Google wants to do more behind your wheel by Kirsten Korosec
89% of Americans don’t know what the ‘gig economy’ is by Laura Lorenzetti
Google’s payday loan ad ban hits a startup it funded by Aaron Pressman
Can search startup ThoughtSpot become the corporate version of Google? by Heather Clancy
ONE MORE THING
Happy Birthday, Apple Store. The tech giant’s first foray into the retail business was in Tyson Corner, Va. There are now almost 500 sites worldwide and—if CEO Tim Cook gets his way—the network will soon expand to India. Plus, Apple wants them to feel more like community centers. (Money, Time, New York Times)
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
MuleSoft Connect: Enable your digital transformation. (May 21-25; San Francisco)
Twilio Signal: The developer conference for communications. (May 24-25; San Francisco)
Cloud Identity Summit: The world’s leading identity industry event. (June 6-9; New Orleans)
Bullhorn Engage: New models for business-to-business relationships. (June 8-10; Boston)
Apple Worldwide Developer Conference: The Apple developer ecosystem. (June 13-17; San Francisco)
Information Builders Summit: Business intelligence and analytics trends. (June 13-17; Reno, Nev.)
Red Hat Summit: The premier open source technology event. (June 27-30; San Francisco)
MongoDB World: For giant ideas. (June 28-29; New York)
NewVoiceMedia Connect: Rethink sales and service. (June 30; San Francisco)
Inforum: Infor’s annual user conference. (July 10-13; New York)
Fortune Brainstorm Tech: The world’s top tech and media thinkers, operators, entrepreneurs, innovators, and influencers. (July 11-13; Aspen, Colo.)
Sage Summit: For fast-growth businesses. (July 25-28; Chicago)
Oracle OpenWorld: The future of the cloud is now. (Sept. 18-22; San Francisco)
Gigaom Change: 7 transformational technologies. (Sept. 21-23; Austin)
Workday Rising: Talent management in the cloud. (Sept. 26-29; Chicago)
Microsoft Ignite: Product road maps and innovation. (Sept. 26-30; Atlanta)
Dreamforce: The Salesforce ecosystem gathers. (Oct. 4-7; San Francisco)
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: The world’s largest gathering of women technologists. (Oct. 19-21; Houston)
TBM Conference: Manage the business of IT. (Nov. 7-10; San Diego)
Drone World Expo: Commercial apps for unmanned aircraft. (Nov. 15-16; San Jose, Calif.)
AWS re:Invent: Amazon’s annual cloud conference. (Nov. 28-Dec. 2; Las Vegas)
|This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.|