Monday, July 14, 2014

Boot up: Android's next billion, Pichai v Samsung, MonkeyParking acts up

A burst of 9 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Ben Bajarin:

Developers make more money with iOS than Android (even though the installed base is larger). A large percentage of the current Android installed base is not on the absolute cheapest device in the world.

To put it succinctly, Google likely has the most profitable customers they are going to get. So what does this mean for developer revenue opportunities when the next billion new Android users will come from devices on the extreme low end?

It is extremely important Google is active in getting new customers online, empowered with a pocket computer, in every region of the world. The problem however, is this group is likely not profitable to anyone but Google and even that may be debatable. Connecting the next billion is massively important but is it profitable? Who will be the hardware OEM, chipset providers, screen manufacturer, willing to chase pennies to serve this market? Certainly Samsung will not. Will it require a new business model like Xiaomi's, where the service is where the money is and not in the hardware?

Certainly Xiaomi has the most promising business model of any emergent vendor.

Amir Efrati also profiled Sundar Pichai:

The bespectacled Mr. Pichai is agreeable and occasionally self-deprecating, often poking fun at his lack of pop-culture knowledge. He takes his time with big decisions, often going on walks to think things over, colleagues say. But he can be testy when annoyed and even raise his voice when he feels dismayed or betrayed, though such instances are rare. After 10 years at Google, he's no stranger to tension-filled meetings, both internally and externally.

One such meeting occurred in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. There, Mr. Pichai told Samsung's mobile-products leadership that he was willing to "walk away" from Samsung, the biggest maker of Andorid smartphones, according to a person who was officially briefed about the meeting at Google.

In other words, Mr. Pichai was prepared to forbid Samsung from using Android. The threat was part of a long-running feud between the companies over Google's perception that Samsung is hijacking Android by de-emphasizing Google's pre-installed, revenue-generating applications in favor of competing Samsung apps, among other things.

"He wasn't going to be a patsy to Samsung," this person says of Mr. Pichai. The companies later reached an uneasy truce.

Perhaps the price of allowing Samsung to continue using Google Mobile Services was that it contribute its secure Knox service to Android L. If so, Pichai is an incredible negotiator - and Samsung's weakness has been exposed. (Subscription required to read full article.)

"You would interact with it like you would a human assistant," said Kurzweil. It will be possible to ask a question of the software just as you would if talking to another person, he said; and you could trust that it would return a fully reasoned answer, not just a list of links as Google's search engine does today. Such a virtual assistant might also take the initiative, Kurzweil said, coming forward when new information had appeared that was related to an earlier query or conversation.

Kurzweil said the technology will eventually be as widely used as Google's current search engine, and its scope will extend beyond text documents. He also predicted that specialized chips designed to implement key parts of the information processing involved would make the technology cheaper to deploy.

MonkeyParking's app lets users auction off their public parking spaces. The Rome-based company has until July 11, 2014 to comply, and then it could face a lawsuit brought by the city. In addition to the City by the Bay, the startup also operates in the Italian capital.

In a statement sent to Ars, MonkeyParking claimed that it was, in fact, not auctioning off public parking spaces. Rather, the company says it auctions off information about the parking spaces.

"The real issue here is that a local ordinance is being misapplied to wrongfully target our service," the company said. "This is happening with our company and other companies operating in the social sharing space. This is yet another example of a local ordinance that was drafted in a world pre-shared economy which local authorities are improperly applying to a shared economy service."

Add "shared economy" to the buzzometer for this decade. Also: it's ludicrous. You can't auction the space without also auctioning the knowledge of the space; and the knowledge of the location of a publicly-owned good is itself a publicly-owned good, because no one person or group can own that knowledge.

No doubt Monkeyparking, if (when) it loses that case, will continue on a reductio ad absurdum where it claims it's auctioning information about how to contact people who have information about parking spaces. Which will remain public goods.

Bubba Murarka is a partner at DFJ:

in the long-term, the dominant platform owner's interests diverge from customers and application developers. Unfortunately, there is oftentimes little that customers can do directly when things get to this state, so government regulation or market-driven disruption have to solve the problem. Large developers, like Amazon, fund both approaches via lobbying and projects like Fire Phone.

However, at some point, the interests of head and long tail of app developers result in open standards and source to commoditize the dominant platforms (web browsers vs. windows, linux vs. *nix). Then, the disruptive platforms, and frankly the platforms that lost, implement the new open standards first to put pressure on the winning platforms to also adopt them. If you think this is too much of a stretch, I'd suggest looking at many of iOS8's features and imagine if they'd been built if Android didn't exist. Cue, "the circle of life".

Taking it all together, I'd argue Amazon has customer problems firmly in mind with the launch of Fire Phone. It is just over a much longer timeframe than most companies can conceive.

"You need to develop a conscience, Google," Tirado yelled while holding up a T-shirt urging people to stop Google's lawyer Jack Halprin. Halprin owns the seven-unit Victoria building where Tirado and her family live, and is reportedly trying to evict them using a controversial piece of California legislation called the Ellis Act to take the entire building off the rental market and evict rent-controlled tenants. The other protester let loose on Google for what he called "machines that kill people," a reference to the company's acquisition of robotic engineering company Boston Dynamics last December.

Erin McElroy, one of the protest's organizers, told The Verge that Tirado got into the show by receiving a pass donated by a sympathetic attendee.

Orun Bhuiyan:

On May 29th, 2014, Technorati removed millions of pages from the web, deleting their entire blog directory and all associated information.

What's more interesting is that they performed this action rather stealthily, without an announcement of any kind. Technorati's motive behind this sudden decision is presumably related to their increased interest to focus on developing their advertising network.

As someone with design, programming and statistical skills, I frequently wrote scripts that scraped information from Technorati in an effort to analyze and visualize trends in content. Last week I visited my favorite directory to find that it was a very different site from the one I had come to know and respect. It was a downright surreal sensation. Like visiting New York City and discovering that the Statue of Liberty had been removed.

Even more curious was the fact that no major web publications have covered Technorati's abrupt transformation. I rummaged the Internet for signs that I wasn't the only one seeing this sudden disappearance of millions of pages and hardly found any reputable sources covering it. Perhaps no one noticed?

Just trying to remember the last time we looked at Technorati. Umm..

Eric DeFriez, Gmail Extensibility team:

For a while now, many of you have been asking for a better way to access data to build apps that integrate with Gmail.

It's the only thing people talk about in the pubs around here. "If only there were a RESTful API for Gmail that wasn't as good as IMAP but did some of the same things!"

Cynical view: Google wants to deprecate IMAP so that people have to visit its browser page (or on mobile use its app) and see an ad. Optimistic view: you'll be able to write apps that can do user-limited but clever things with Gmail that aren't possible on Yahoo or Hotmail/Outlook. offers 18-carat rings that connect to iOS or Android and light up or vibrate for notifications:

Q: When considering the current, basically grassroots state of wearable tech, how did that inform how you built Ringly as something that people would actually want to wear?

Christina Mercando, Ringly founder: "I get that question a lot, and when I first came up with the idea, wearable tech wasn't as buzzy as it is today. It was never a reaction to wearable tech: I was just always missing calls and texts because my phone was in my purse, and my family was getting frustrated with me [to the point that] it became a running joke. And I was looking at my hands, and I thought, "You know, I wear some big rings. I wonder if I can make a technology that would fit into the things I wear every day that would help solve this problem and be useful?" And so that's where the idea came from. It was always about wanting to make beautiful things.

"It was never, 'How can we make technology beautiful?' I wanted to make beautiful things and put technology into them. And I think that's very different from the way a lot of technology companies work, because they start with the technology first and then design around it. We're using a very different approach by starting with the style and design.

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