Data Sheet—Tuesday, June 6, 2017
An assortment of announcements? A melange of Macs? A stew of software features?
Aaron stepping for Adam today, and I’m still recovering from trying to keep track of everything Apple packed into the two-hour plus keynote address on Monday at its annual developer conference. The WWDC stage was chock full of new stuff, including operating system updates for all four of Apple’s major device lines (MacOS, iOS, TVOS, and WatchOS), an Amazon Echo knockoff called HomePod, and a super hip, all-black, $5,000 iMac Pro desktop system.
But amid the hodgepodge, there were at least two discernible themes running through some of the most significant announcements.
First: the continuing rise in prominence of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Not only did Apple explicitly release a software toolkit to help its developers add AI features like image recognition to apps, but Apple itself added even more AI-like features to its own apps. And the new HomePod speaker includes voice access to digital assistant Siri, which should better position Apple in the coming AI wars against Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s eponymous assistant.
The other undercurrent I detected was an increasing focus on “pro” customers. Intel and AMD have lately been talking up the high-end of the PC market, where sales actually rose last year thanks to professionals and “prosumers” who need more powerful systems to edit photos and videos, create virtual reality settings, and so on. Not only did Apple unveil the pricey iMac Pro and update its entire notebook line, but it also spent a big chunk of time introducing its newest iPad Pro and a bevy of new software features aimed at getting work done.
On a more personal level, I had a few, say, less newsworthy but nonetheless noteworthy favorites. In the Apple-gadget-filled Pressman household, the big hits were the Woody and Buzz Lightyear watch faces, the tiny 12″ MacBook upgraded with real CPUs for the first time, and Amazon Prime Video coming to Apple TV.
Expectations of mobile privacy. The Supreme Court agreed to hear an important case determining whether police need a warrant (and probable cause) before obtaining cellphone location data. In 2014, the high court required a warrant to look at the data stored on the phone of someone who was arrested.
We'll always have Paris. Several of the biggest names in the U.S. tech industry signed on to a new campaign pledging their support for the Paris climate agreement a week after President Donald Trump exited the accord. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Tesla, Lyft, and Uber are among the U.S. companies that have added their names to the "We Are Still In" campaign that debuted on Monday
Calling all HR. Uber Technologies will tell employees on Tuesday about changes it will make after conducting a probe into sexual harassment allegations by a former engineer, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Keep you chocolate out of my peanut butter. Security startup Netskope said it raised $100 million in funding on Tuesday. The company acts as a gatekeeper between its customers' businesses and cloud-based apps like Salesforce and Box, protecting the data being shared between the two.
Toddler supercomputer. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the long-running and beloved educational program, has teamed up with IBM to use machine learning techniques for new teaching tools. The first app helps teach reading with IBM's Watson observing a student's vocabulary range and adapting exercises on the fly.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Will there be a technological deus ex machine to save the planet from our profligate use of fossil fuels? There are some promising developments, though they probably won't be sufficient unless also accompanied by steep cut backs in greenhouse gas emissions.
Last week in Zurich, the world's first commercial plant to harvest carbon dioxide out of the air went to work. The Climeworks plant uses fans to draw air through filters that trap the gas so it can be converted for other uses or buried in the ground. Co-founder Jan Wurzbacher tells Fast Company that the plant already makes economic sense.
"Climeworks' plan–taking it out of the air directly on site, is very advantageous and also commercially attractive already as of today," Wurzbacher says. "We still have to go down a couple of steps on the cost curve, but in these niche applications already today, we can offer competitive CO2."
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Americans Are Holding on to Their Smartphones Longer Than Before by Madeline Farber
Apple Just Overhauled the App Store by Jonathan Vanian
Why Fitbit Dropped to Third Place in Wearables Rankings by Aaron Pressman
Harvard Yanks 10 Acceptance Letters Over Offensive Facebook Posts by Jeff John Roberts
BEFORE YOU GO
Has the mafia gotten hooked on the super food diet? The multi-billion dollar California nut industry has been hit with a major crime wave. And some law enforcement officials think the thefts of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are part of a coordinated attack. Plus, did you know there was such a job title as "agricultural-crimes detective"? That's Chad Parker in this great article from Outside magazine:
I'm left holding a report saying 'Someone showed up,' and I've got a license plate that doesn't exist. They disappear into the night.