Big Tech firms in finance, Product Mindset workshops, Amazon market share, 2019 AI report, Boomerang features, WeChat mini-programs growth, & more.

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🎰 The week in figures

$1T: Alphabet’s market cap passes $1T for the first time; represents only the fourth company to reach the milestone following Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft.

$115B: Tencent reveals WeChat users spent $115B in the social platform’s “mini-programs” last year, up 160% YoY; the company plans to increase focus on the apps-within-the-app this year, introducing new capabilities like shoppable live streaming; current mini-programs facilitate ticket sales, bicycle rentals, more.

$61.7B: Mobile gamers spent $61.7B on iOS and Android titles last year; up 12.8% YoY; games represented 74% of mobile app spending in 2019.

$18.5B: AI-related startups in the US raised $18.5B in 2019; compares with $16.8B for 2018.

$5.3B: Visa ($421B market cap) to acquire Plaid, which provides APIs for financial services integration, for $5.3B; Plaid enables clients including Venmo, Robinhood, and Coinbase to connect their apps to users’ bank accounts.

$300M: Chinese ride-hailing firm Dida Chuxing (not to be confused with rival Didi Chuxing) plans to raise as much as $300M and is considering an IPO, according to Bloomberg sources; Dida has pitched possible investors on the round, and is looking at listing in Hong Kong or mainland China; Dida claims it has 1.2M drivers on its platform and says it is profitable.

$200M: Apple acquires Seattle-based edge AI computing company Xnor.ai for ~$200M; the startup spun out of Paul Allen’s AI2research institute; Xnor focuses on low-power image recognition tools and enables simple integration of AI code and libraries into device-centric apps.

71.8M: Global PC shipments grew in Q4 2019 helping the industry record annual gains for the first time since 2011; IDC says Q4 PC shipments hit 71.8M units, up 4.8% YoY.

$50M: Estonia-based mobility firm Bolt raises €50M (~$56M) debt from the European Investment Bank; Bolt operates food delivery, scooter sharing, and ride-hailing services across Europe and Africa; has raised ~$280M to date.

5.2M: Apple shipped 5.26M Macs in Q4, down 3% YoY; Apple’s market share fell from 7.9% to 7.5% over the same period.

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1M: Amazon says it will create 1M new jobs in India by 2025; Jeff Bezos made the announcement while in the country, claiming the roles will be in tech, infrastructure, and logistics.

25%: SoftBank-backed hospitality firm Oyo has cut more than 65k rooms in India since October last year, ~25% of its offerings; the firm has also retreated from ~200 smaller Indian cities; follows a round of layoffs affecting ~2k staff.

📰 What’s going on

WhatsApp cancels plan to sell advertising space in the app, an initiative that drove its founders to leave parent Facebook in 2018; the team WhatsApp dedicated to the effort reportedly disbanded in recent months, and the company removed relevant code from the app.

Instagram updates its Boomerang feature with new editing and effects options; Boomerang enables users to create videos with a forward-backward playback loop; the new effects are slow motion, motion blur, and a glitchy look; the new editing tool enables trimming.

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Instagram is testing direct messages on the web; the feature is limited to a small percentage of global users, and Instagram hasn’t disclosed plans for a broader rollout; users can share photos, create groups, more.

Xiaomi spins off its POCO smartphone brand as a standalone company; it’s unclear how the company will be structured; the unit has only launched one device to date — the $300 POCO F1 — which was released in 2018.

YouTube launches Profile cards in general availability on Android; tapping a user’s name opens the card, which features a photo, subscriptions, recent comments (only from the channel where the profile was accessed), more; also features a Subscribe button if the viewer hasn’t already subscribed.

YouTube updates its iOS app with Subscriptions feed filters, enabling users to see a list of unwatched titles only, partially watched videos, clips published within the previous 24 hours, and livestreams; also features an option to see Community posts only; coming soon to Android.

Google develops a new text interpretation system capable of processing whole books; known as Reformer, it replaces the company’s previous model which was limited to processing smaller blocks of text.

Google announces Premium Support plan for enterprises using the company’s cloud infrastructure; Google charges based on a client’s existing monthly spend; the plan starts at $12.5k per month; Google promises a 15-minute response time for issues that render mission-critical apps or infrastructure unusable.

Google says it will end support for Chrome Apps by the end of June 2022; the company first announced it would phase out Chrome Apps in 2016; the Chrome Web Store will stop accepting new apps this March; Chrome Extensions are unaffected.

Google acquires Seattle-based no-code development platform AppSheet; terms undisclosed; AppSheet focuses on multi-platform enterprise apps; Google Cloud VP Amit Zavery said the deal would enable customers to build scale apps that integrate various data sources and Google tech including Maps and Forms.

Google’s Stadia announces 120-plus games will come to the service this year; Stadia targets ten launch exclusives in the first half of the year; in the first quarter, Stadia plans to enhance web play with 4K support, wireless play via the Stadia controller, and improved Assistant support; also plans support for more Android devices.

Microsoft plans to go carbon negative by 2030 and to remove the same amount of carbon dioxide it has released into the atmosphere by 2050; the company will spend $1B over four years on research to reduce, capture, and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Microsoft officially starts rolling out its Chromium-based Edge browser; the software will automatically replace older versions of Edge on consumer devices running Windows 10 April 2018 update or later; businesses users can block the update.

Disney+ led US downloads in Apple’s App Store and Google Play during Q4; the app launched mid-November and saw 30M downloads by year’s end, more than double that of the number two app, TikTok; Disney+ garnered 18M downloads from the App Store and 12M from Google Play.

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3 Uber finance execs exit the company; global finance head Delphine Bernard left this month; Sujoy Haldar, head of rides finance, and Sam Sharma, who oversees finance for Uber Eats, are also scheduled to leave.

Fitbit starts rolling out blood oxygen monitoring to some of its devices; the update fully activates the SpO2 sensor found on Fitbit Charge 3, Ionic, Versa, Versa Lite, and Versa 2; once updated, users will be able to get an estimate of their blood oxygen levels.

TikTok is considering a curated content feed that would ensure advertising space free from disturbing and controversial content; sources say the stream could include user-generated and professionally produced content; the feed could enable TikTok to charge higher advertising rates.

Elon Musk says Teslas will soon be able to talk to pedestrians; in a clip shared to Twitter, one car tells an onlooker to hop in; the feature will work via internal or external speakers; Tesla began adding external speakers to meet safety regulations regarding artificial noise.

👩🏾‍💻 Good reads

Why and how Big Tech firms are getting into finance (3min video).

What’s Amazon’s market share? 35% or 5%? Ben Evans analyzes the scale of Amazon within ecommerce and retail in general.

Product Mindset workshop guide: encouraging ownership in a Scrum Team, by Stefan Wolpers.

Turn your customers into your community. Success stories by LEGO, TEDx and Twitch.

The AI Index 2019 Report. A small sample of insights from the report:

  • China now publishes as many AI journals and conference papers per year as Europe, having passed the USA in 2006. The Field-Weighted Citation Impact of USA publications is still about 50% higher than China’s.
  • In a year-and-a-half, the time required to train a large image classification system on cloud infrastructure has fallen from about three hours in October 2017 to about 88 seconds in July 2019. During the same period, the cost to train such a system has fallen similarly.
  • Globally, investment in AI startups continues its steady ascent. From a total of $1.3B raised in 2010 to over $40.4B in 2018 (with $37.4B in 2019 as of November 4th), funding has increased at an average annual growth rate of over 48%.

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Written by

Full-time learner, product stuff, “triathlete” & global traveller. Creating cool products @ Revolut, formerly @ Booking.com and @ Just Eat.

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