Q4 results, Free Google Stadia, New Google Maps features, Chinese coalition for Play Store alternative, Tech in 2020, Product catastrophe scenarios & more.

Welcome to a new edition of el producto

$20B: Instagram generated ~$20B in ad revenues last year; the figure represents more than a quarter of Facebook’s annual revenue; compares with YouTube’s $15B in ad sales.

$8B: India-based edtech firm Byju’s raises $200M on an $8B; offers exam prep and online learning via an app; has raised more than $1.1B to date.

€7.8B: Worldline acquires control of fellow French payments firm Ingenico for €7.8B cash and stock.

30.7M: Apple sold more watches than the entire Swiss watch industry in 2019; Apple sold 30.7M units, which compares with 21.1M for all Swiss manufacturers combined; SA analyst Steven Waltzer posits apps, attractive design, and easy-to-use tech make the Apple Watch a compelling device for buyers in North America, Western Europe, and Asia.

28.6M: Disney+ has attracted 28.6M subscribers in its first three months; 26.5M were mentioned in the company’s quarterly earnings, but CEO Bob Iger notes the firm has added an additional 2.1M since the end of December; analysts had forecast 20M Disney+ sign-ups by this point. Iger says Disney aims to expand Hulu to international markets starting next year; full plans unclear, but Iger notes recent exec reorganization at Hulu is designed to help with its global plans.

$8: Google Photos starts offering an $8 per month prints subscription service; Google automatically selects, prints, and ships 10 images uploaded over the previous 30 days; offers 4×6 pictures printed on matte cardstock.

44.3%: EVs accounted for 44.3% of new car sales in Norway last month, up 17.1% YoY; the Audi e-tron SUV was the top-selling vehicle last month.

20%: Netflix rolls out support for the AV1 video codec in its Android app, which promises to use less data; the firm claims the royalty-free codec is 20% more efficient at compressing data than VP9; users can watch select content in the format by selecting the Save Data mode in the app settings.

Instagram is testing a partners program to let creators monetize IGTV content; full details unclear, but the scheme could be modeled after Facebook Watch which gives creators a 55% revenue share for mid-roll ads; it’s unknown if or when Instagram will launch the program.

Facebook’s Messenger Kids app adds new features to let parents and guardians see children’s chat histories and recent images; the tools are available via a Parent Dashboard within the main Facebook app; also shows a history of video calls, any users a child has blocked, and more.

Google says it will launch a free tier for its Stadia gaming service in the coming months; Stadia currently costs $130 for the Founder’s Edition, plus a $10 per month subscription.

Google Maps marks its 15-year anniversary with an app icon redesign and new features; the app replaces the For You tab with Saved, and adds Contribute and Updates tabs; Google Maps will also introduce more crowdsourced info for public transport next month, as well as a lightweight version of its Live View AR mode.

Google begins offering Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 for direct sale; the $1k AR headset was previously limited to select partners; Google says it has seen strong demand from developers and certain businesses who want to create custom apps for the device.

YouTube Music is set to add support for user-uploaded tracks; the company is testing the feature internally, but it’s unclear when it will launch; Google Play Music offers support for uploading tracks via the desktop web, but the service is being phased out.

Apple files a patent for creating live video streams that can be viewed from multiple angles; the content could be viewed via an AR/VR headset, allowing users to switch between perspectives.

Apple adds CarKey API to iOS 13.4 beta which will allow iPhone and Apple Watch users to unlock and start a compatible car via NFC contact; users must have the app for their car installed, and they then pair with their vehicle via Apple’s Wallet app; it’s unknown which vehicles will support the feature, or when it will be released.

Apple is set to introduce universal app purchases across its various platforms; code in Apple’s Xcode 11.4 beta indicates developers will be able to allow one-time purchases for apps across macOS, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS; unknown when the feature will roll out.

Microsoft combines its Windows software team and hardware unit, placing it under the stewardship of CPO Panos Panay; the unit will be rebranded Windows Experience and Devices; current Experiences head Joe Belfiore will move over to Office, partnering with Ales Holecek to run the Office Experience Group.

Amazon launches Brand Voice, a cloud-based tool to let enterprise clients build their own text-to-speech services; part of Amazon Polly, the service promises lifelike speaking styles that can be tailored for each company; supports a range of accents, cadences, and more.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner will step down in June; he has been in the role for 11 years; Weiner will transition to board chairman, with SVP of product Ryan Roslansky taking over as CEO.

Spotify ($28.3B market cap) acquires digital media firm The Ringer; terms undisclosed; The Ringer operates a sports-centric website and multiple podcasts; The Ringer had revenues of $15M in 2018.

Ride-hailing firm Grab suspends in-app passenger verification in the Philippines following regulatory concerns over data privacy; Grab riders are required to snap a selfie to validate their accounts, but the National Privacy Commission of the Philippines (NPC) has questioned the firm’s handling of the data; NPC has also raised issues with a Grab pilot scheme that captures in-car audio and video; NPC says Grab did not adequately consider the rights of passengers when implementing the programs.

Vice profiles multiple Airbnb scams; the publication solicited emails from Airbnb customers and says it received almost 1k responses detailing negative experiences; includes claims of guests arriving to locations that don’t match their descriptions, hosts double booking properties, and more

LG and Ericsson have both opted out of this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona citing concerns over the possible spread of coronavirus; MWC is scheduled to begin on Feb 24

Chinese smartphone firms Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo are partnering on a rival to the Google Play Store; the companies will establish the Global Developer Service Alliance (GDSA) which will offer apps, games, movies, and more; the platform will initially launch in 9 countries including India and Russia; it was set to go live next mont; timeframe is now in doubt.

Uber ($63.2B market cap) Q4 beats: $4.1B revenue, up 37% YoY ($4B expected); 111M monthly active platform consumers, up 22% YoY; 1.9B trips, up 28% YoY. Uber lost $8.5B for fiscal 2019; CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says the firm is aiming for profitability in Q4 2020; the firm had previously set 2021 to become profitable.

Alphabet ($1T market cap) Q4 mixed: $46.1B revenue, up 17.3% YoY ($46.9B expected); $37.9B ad revenue, up 11.8% YoY; $4.7B YouTube ad revenue, up 30.5% YoY; $2.6B Google Cloud revenue, up 52.9% YoY. YouTube Music and YouTube Premium collectively have more than 20M subscribers; YouTube TV has 2M paid users; Sundar Pichai says YouTube’s non-ad revenue equates to an annual run-rate of $3B; Pichai notes YouTube’s 22M paying subscribers represent 1% of its MAUs. Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat says Google’s hardware unit has become a multibillion-dollar business over the last three years; the company does not provide product shipping figures, but Pichai notes the Nest Mini and Nest Hub Max sold well over the holidays.

Twitter Q4 ($25.9B market cap) mixed: $1B revenue, up 11% YoY ($994.5M expected); 152M DAUs, up 21% YoY; Twitter notes it added 26M DAUs for the whole of fiscal 2019.

Spotify ($28.3B market cap) Q4 misses: €1.9B revenue, up 24% YoY ($2.1B expected); €77M losses; 271M subscribers, up 31% YoY; 125M premium users, up 29% YoY; Spotify also says podcast listening was up 200% for the year.

Snap ($26.6B market cap) Q4 mixed: $560.8M revenue, up 44% YoY ($563M expected); 218M DAUs, up 3.8% YoY; Snap projects Q1 revenue of $450M to $470M.

Tech in 2020, by Ben Evans. A big presentation digging into macro and strategic trends in the tech industry that Ben presented at Davos.

Product catastrophe: The top four scenarios and how to deal with them.

In the race for cheap airfare, it’s you vs. the machine; travel providers now use software to re-price their offerings, sometimes dozens of times a day, putting travelers at a big disadvantage.

Underutilized Fixed Assets; Every marketplace is unique. But every successful marketplace is unique in the same ways. Historically it’s very hard to find a successful marketplace that wasn’t built on an underutilized fixed asset.

Mantras vs mission statements. Mission statements are often blathering homages to nothingness, constructed by committees trying to appease every vested interest. Avinash Kaushik shows an alternative.

el producto is a curated selection of Tech&Product happenings within the last few days from a curious and frequently skeptical Product leader perspective. Free forever. Sign-up here.

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