Gmail redesign, Uber’s new Driver app, Instagram’s new features, Twitter design culture, Booking.com chatbot personality, Amazon’s R&D spent & more.
Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto!
🎰 The week in figures
$22.6B spent by Amazon on R&D in 2017. More than any other US company, and up 41% over 2016; tech companies held the top five places for R&D commitments last year, spending a combined total of $76B; much of Amazon’s spending went toward AWS, Alexa, and computer vision.
$6B in revenue generated by “Grand Theft Auto V” since its 2013 launch, making it the highest-grossing media title in history; the game’s budget was $265M; has sold 90M units across all supported platforms.
+70: Amazon now offers products from more than 70 of its own private-label brands; the company launched its first brands in 2009; since the start of last year, Amazon has launched ~60 brands, many focused on apparel and accessories.
📰 What’s going on
Google announces a Gmail redesign for the web; in an email to G Suite administrators, the company said it will also be adding Smart Reply, email snooze, and more; Google plans to introduce the update via an early access program in the coming weeks. New Gmail design includes a sidebar with access to Keep, Calendar, and Tasks.
Amazon closes acquisition of Ring, and the company discounts the Ring Video Doorbell by $30; now runs $100; Ring’s products, which will retain their branding, will likely integrate with Amazon’s products; Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff said integration with Amazon Key (which enables a delivery driver to leave an item inside a home when the owner is away) is possible.
Walmart would pay $10B to $12B to acquire a 51% stake in Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart; the deal is set to be agreed by the end of June; follows a report Amazon has made a rival bid.
Spotify sends press invites for an event in New York City on April 24; the reason is unknown, but in February, the company sent some customers offers for a coming music player or controller for cars; different users saw different offers; the device apparently features voice control and 4G mobile data.
Uber launches a redesigned driver app that simplifies finding surge, boost, and incentivized areas; also adds one-tap responses to riders and distance left to travel; new offline mode maintains trip data when a driver has a spotty connection.
Uber acquires bike-sharing company JUMP; a TechCrunch source indicates a price of $200M; Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company envisions the Uber app not just as a tool for hailing a car, but for arranging the most affordable, convenient transportation option.
Uber commits to conducting annual background checks on its drivers and to contract a company that monitors arrests; coming app update adds safety tips, easy location sharing with friends, and a button to call 911 and send location information.
Facebook announces the Data Abuse Bounty, offering $500 to $40k for information on substantiated cases of unauthorized data use; currently limited to Facebook: does not include Instagram
Mark Zuckerberg’s big hearing; Facebook’s boss faced the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in a 5-hour testification on recent data breach scandal.
Instagram introduces Focus, a portrait-style mode; available via the Stories camera, the feature adds a bokeh effect to both the front or back camera; available on iPhone 6s and up, and select Android devices.
Instagram is testing Nametags, a Snapcodes-like feature that lets users follow others via the Stories camera; users generate a personal image that can be displayed on their device or posted elsewhere.
Instagram says it’s building a tool to let users download their data; full plans unclear, but will let users save their photos, videos, and messages.
Google Home and Home Mini launch in India; Home costs $155, while Home Mini is $77; supports Indian music services Saavn and Gaana.
Samsung opens pre-orders for $100 DeX Pad; connects to a monitor and lets Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus function like a desktop computer; launches May 13.
W3C and FIDO Alliance formally approve WebAuthn, an open web standard for password-free logins; lets websites implement a variety of support tokens; Firefox already supports WebAuthn; Chrome and Edge will add support in the coming months.
Leap Motion announces Project North Star, an open source AR platform that incorporates hand-tracking tech; includes a design for an AR headset which the company claims can be built for ~$100; the system promises to let users manipulate AR objects with their hands.
Nintendo partners with Scrum Ventures to find startups working on new ideas for the Switch console; Scrum will operate the program, scouting teams developing sensors and other applicable tech; Nintendo will help to bring products to market.
📚 Stuff to think about
How Twitter leadership ensures Design comes first. Twitter’s Product Design Manager gives some insights on how the company keeps design aligned with tech & product; highlights company-wide adoption of “Jobs to be done” framework.
How we’re building a chatbot that does more than just talk. Kathy Saunders on the principles that set Booking.com’s chatbot for success. Hint: “Helpful” is a personality type.
Leadership happens even when you’re not in the room.
A leader’s influence is judged by their absence. It’s what happens when the leader walks out of the room. It’s the behavior of your team when you’re nowhere in sight.
If you need to be there every moment of the day to ensure your choices are followed, you’re not really a leader. You’re just an irritating boss.
GDPR and the end of the Internet’s grand bargain. HBR on how the new EU law will affect the exchange of free or subsidized content for personalized advertising.
First Principles: the building blocks of true knowledge. Techniques for thinking clearly and improve the reasoning process. ”First-principles reasoning cuts through dogma and removes the blinders. We can see the world as it is and see what is possible.”