Good morning from New York, where I got in late and am up early. So I’ll be brief.
I want to call your attention to an extraordinary report from MIT Technology Review, its annual “10 Breakthrough Technologies” issue. When I have time, I plan to study it to get my head around what an amazing—both scary amazing and good amazing—time it is in technology.
Some of the magazine’s breakthroughs are either ho-hum or otherwise uninspiring. Self-driving trucks already are a thing everyone is talking about. I think I can live without the “360-degree selfie.”
Two that blew my mind are “Botnets of Things” and “Paying With Your Face.” The first trend refers to the sinister ramifications of having every gadget we own connected to the Internet. Not so long ago we thought that’d be a good thing. Now we know bad actors can wreak havoc through our lights, garage-door-openers and other mundane devices. And the magazine has its eyes wide open about how this will play out: “The best defense would be for everything online to run only secure software, so botnets couldn’t be created in the first place. This isn’t going to happen anytime soon.”
When I read about paying for goods and services through face-detection technology my immediate thought was, “Yes, please.” China is a leader in this technology, and that’s a whole other theme to watch: the emergence of China as a purveyor of innovative technology that eclipses its me-too past.
The future is bright—and frightening. Have a breakthrough day.
The better to see you with. Amazon is expected on Tuesday to unveil a new version of its Echo speaker-slash-digital-assistant that will include a 7-inch touchscreen, a camera, and the ability to make telephone and video conference calls. Dubbed the Echo Show, the device will reportedly sell for $230, $50 more than the screen-less Echo model.
Knocking on heaven’s door. No publicly-traded company has reached a value of $800 billion–until now. Apple briefly touched the mark during trading on Monday, continuing a powerful rally has pushed the iPhone maker’s shares up 32% so far this year. Apple’s reign at the top may be short-lived, however. Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Saudi Aramco, is planning to go public soon, potentially at a value of $1 trillion or more.
Trickle down fallout. YouTube is famously filled with a mind blowing variety of videos on nearly every subject. And the more popular video makers have been able to earn a living off the cut of advertising YouTube shares. But the New York Times reports that small videographers have seen their earnings drop substantially due to the controversy over inappropriate content and subsequent advertiser boycotts. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki apologized last week to big advertisers for the posting of ads alongside videos from hate groups.
How much is that in yuan? China’s Alipay mobile payments service is coming to 4 million U.S. locations via a deal with credit card servicer First Data, about matching the availability of Apple Pay. The initial focus is on Chinese tourists. But Jack Ma’s Ant Financial, which owns the service, already has been aiming for the U.S. market with its MoneyGram purchase.
Schoolhouse Rock. Microsoft unveiled a new version of Windows and some Chromebook-like inexpensive laptops last week in an effort to claw back ground in the education market. A new survey by EdWeek shows Google is currently far ahead, with 68% of classrooms using the search giant’s productivity tools frequently, compared to 17% for Microsoft and 1% for Apple. Another 14% said they used none of the big three frequently.
Out of syrup. The food delivery startup Maple is out of business. Based in New York and with famed chef David Chang as an advisor, the company raised $50 million of venture capital. But making sustainable profits on minuscule margins proved too tough.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Following Moore’s Law, microprocessors have made steady gains for decades, alongside improvements in hard drives, networking gear and fiber optic cable capacity. Pull the lens back farther and the total gain is almost staggering.
It can be hard to imagine, but it’s vividly illustrated in this Computerworld profile of Bridgestone overhauling its 50-year-old main data center. Out went 26,000 pounds of copper wire. In came 67 miles of fiber-optic cable. The center stored about two terabytes of data (on 8,500 miles of magnetic tape) back when it opened in 1968. Now it’s filled with 3.5 petabytes–or 3,584 terabytes.
Of course, six other data centers didn’t get modernized, they were consolidated into one. Bridgestone also relies on outside cloud providers now. “To me it’s a balancing act,” Rob Olds, the company’s acting CIO says.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Getting Computers to Understand Sarcasm Is Easy. Not! by Barb Darrow
Why Facebook Is Trying So Hard to Fight Fake News in Europe by Mathew Ingram
This Famous VC Thinks Tesla Could Be the Next Apple by Jen Wieczner
This Is Microsoft’s Response to Amazon Echo and Google Home by Jonathan Vanian
Why Shares of This Tiny Wireless Startup Are Up 500% in a Month by Aaron Pressman
How Instagram Is Helping Users With Mental Health Issues by Laura Entis
BEFORE YOU GO
“We tend to take for granted that history kind of had to work out the way it did. But one of the lessons of Civilization, which I think is true, is that with a few little changes, things could have gone differently.”
— Sid Meier, designer of the legendary PC strategy game Civilization