Google ecommerce bets, Alexa for Hospitality, Uber “cheaper fare waiting” feature, Embracing platforms, Brain-robot interfaces, Netflix signup flow & more.
Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto!
🎰 The week in figures
$71.3B: The Walt Disney Company sharply upped its bid for 21st Century Fox on Wednesday, with Fox in turn announcing that it had entered an agreement with Disney. A 35% uptick from Disney’s earlier offer, and about $6B more than Comcast’s. The deal comes about a week after a judge approved the AT&T-Time Warner merger, another major move towards consolidation in the media industry.
$550M: Google made a $550M investment in Chinese e-commerce company JD.com (less than 1% of JD). The partnership will allow both companies to compete in the global e-commerce space (currently dominated by Amazon and Alibaba), and the pair plans to explore joint development of retail solutions in Southeast Asia, US, and Europe.
📰 What’s going on
Facebook Messenger’s AI assistant, M, now translates between English and Spanish; live in US and Mexico; when a recipient gets a message in their non-native language, Messenger presents a pop-up requesting to auto-translate messages from that sender; opt-in affects only that conversation.
Facebook is testing paid subscriptions for Groups memberships; group members can manage their subscriptions via the Facebook apps for iOS and Android
Facebook introduces auto-playing video ads within Messenger; Facebook exec Stefanos Loukakos notes such ads may prove to be off-putting, but says the company will ultimately focus on user experience.
Instagram launches IGTV: a hub for long-form videos, accessible via a button on the Instagram home screen; has also launched a standalone IGTV app for long-form video creators; new and very small accounts cannot upload videos to IGTV, but the ability will roll out to all users eventually.
Amazon is rolling out Alexa for Hospitality; initially invite-only; hotels, vacation rentals, and some other businesses can place Echo speakers in guest rooms so they can order room service, request housekeeping, adjust room controls, play music, etc. Built to work with existing hotel technologies to reduce set-up time and costs, and uses features from a range of hotel technology service providers, such as DigiValet, Intelity, Nuvola and Volara. Can also provide analytics on the services guests are using and requesting, as well as collecting customer feedback.
Amazon launches Prime Wardrobe for all US Prime subscribers; a customer selects 3–8 items per box, tries them for a week, and returns unwanted items; Amazon doesn’t charge until after items are selected for keeping.
Amazon launches Prime in Australia, offering two-day shipping for most of the country’s residents; also includes Prime Video; membership runs AU$59 (~$44) per year.
Google launches the dedicated Podcasts app for Android; users already had access to podcasts via Google Play Music and third-party apps, but haven’t had a dedicated app from Google since the company shut down Listen in 2012; Podcasts algorithmically generates podcast suggestions based on user listening habits.
Google begins rolling out Google One, its new Google Drive storage plan; lets users share storage amounts with others and offers 2TB for $10 per month (1TB users are automatically upgraded).
Google updates Play with improved subscription management tools for developers and users; Google found that consumers declined subscription apps due to fear of difficulty in canceling; the new subscription center simplifies cancellation, resuming canceled subscriptions and changing payment methods.
Google is rolling out “Continued Conversations” for Google Assistant in the US; enables users to ask follow-up questions without repeating “Hey/Ok Google”; the user can end a conversation by saying “thank you” or “stop”; Amazon launched a similar feature, Follow-Up Mode, for Alexa in March.
Google updates the Google Accounts interface to make it easier to find settings, to change privacy options, and to review data associated with an account and devices; also launched search within Google Accounts; now live for the Android Google app, coming later this year to iOS.
Google begins rolling out Messages for the web; plans to complete the rollout over the next week; limited to Android users; supports stickers, emoji, and image attachments at launch; Google is updating the mobile app with integrated GIF search and Smart Replies.
YouTube is rolling out its Music streaming service in 12 more countries, bringing the total to 17 markets; the company is also launching the Premium video service across all 17 markets.
Stocks app is coming to iPad and macOS; included in iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas; it has been limited to iPhone since its 2007 launch; the macOS version supports new Dark Mode.
GitHub launches GitHub Education; freely available to schools, it bundles GitHub’s assignment automation product Classroom, the Student Developer Pack, training program Campus Advisor, more.
Travel experience platform Peek raises $23M Series B; lets travelers find and book excursions and activities; the company has also signed a deal with Google to make its inventory available in Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Trips.
Twitter acquires Smyte, which provides anti-fraud, anti-spam, and other features to stop bad actors on social networks and marketplaces; Twitter will apply the tech to help prevent abuse on its platform; will also integrate security tools.
PayPal acquires enterprise payments service Hyperwallet for $400M cash; the company provides tools to let SMEs make and receive mass payments. Also to acquire fraud and abuse prevention company Simility for $120M in cash; uses AI, APIs, and beacons to monitor transactions in real time, online and in physical stores.
Google removes the ability to book Uber rides from within Google Maps; users can still view Uber routes in Maps then request rides via the Uber app.
Uber is testing a feature that lets riders wait longer in exchange for cheaper fares, according to now-deleted employee tweet, which included a screenshot; the employee had requested a ride and the app responded with the option to begin the trip as soon as possible and pay $10.18, or to wait four minutes and pay $8.15.
Code and screenshots in Lyft’s Android app indicate the company plans a bike or scooter service currently referred to as Last Mile; the screenshots indicate a user will be able to locate last-mile vehicles on a map and to unlock one with a four-digit PIN; Lyft has applied for dockless scooter permits in San Francisco, together with 12 other companies.
The German government signs a letter of intent with Audi and Airbus to test flying taxis in Ingolstadt, Bavaria (Audi’s hometown); German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer said personal flying vehicles represent a significant opportunity for new startups and companies already developing relevant tech
MIT researchers develop a brain-computer interface that facilitates mind control over robots; uses a combination of electroencephalography and electromyography that enables greater accuracy in measuring brain and muscle activity than either method can provide on its own; could be used to help workers who have limited mobility and language disorders.
📚 Stuff to think about
Innovation in the times when the future gets closer to the present. The role of “architectures” and interfaces will be key in organizational development of the future. Check out why organizations need to embrace platforms and ecosystems.
Brand marketing in early consumer startups. Don’t. Andrew Chen argues that brand marketing should be at the bottom of a startup To Do list. Try instead to understand your users, deliver a great product to the market that grows by itself, built moats, monetize in a user-aligned way, grow your team, build investors/advisors relations. The basics.
Amazon financial services. An extensive report by CBInsights looking at all the bets that amazon is placing in financial services, including failures and potential future plans.
Netflix’s signup flow — behind the scenes. Netflix’s Growth Engineering team walk us through the signup funnel, and show us a breakdown of the microservices that power it.