New Google travel tools and search updates, Amazon’s NYC store, Uber Lite and Uber Cash, Platform aggregation strategies, Oculus Quest & more.
Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto!
🎰 The week in figures
300M - Facebook Stories and Messenger Stories reach 300M DAUs combined; compares with Instagram which has 400M; Facebook says it will open up the platform to advertisers globally in the coming weeks; the firm has been testing Facebook Story ads since May.
75M — 80M iPhones are expected to be sold over the second half of 2018, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo; claims iPhone XS Max is selling three or four times better than iPhone XS; also expects yet-to-launch iPhone XR will be most popular of the three new models.
~330k organizations now use Microsoft’s collaboration and messaging service Teams, according to the company; up from 200k in March and 125k in Sept 2017.
$399 - Facebook announces the Oculus Quest standalone VR headset; ships next spring for $399; it’s the company’s first wireless headset to offer inside-out positional tracking; tracks the headset and dual 6DoF controllers; 50 titles available at launch.
📰 What’s going on
Google Maps adds a group planning feature to its iOS and Android apps; lets users create venue shortlists to share with friends; the list can then be shared via a separate messaging app, allowing everyone to vote or to add their own suggestions.
Google announces numerous updates to search: the news feed is now branded Discover and appears on the Google homepage in all mobile browsers; search will feature AMP-based Stories and featured videos; Google Images will see a UI refresh, Lens, and Stories; new job search product Pathways displays relevant training programs; activity cards associate new searches with past searches.
Google launches new tools for travel planning and booking; new landing page suggests the best times to book for busy travel periods to secure reservations and reduce costs; new hotel location score makes personalized recommendations for neighborhoods; the tools also surface day plans and relevant articles.
Chrome browser v69 automatically logs the user into the browser when the user logs into a Google site with the browser; previous versions allowed the user to log into Google sites but remain logged out of the browser; password sharing, browser history sync, and other data-sensitive features still require user permission .
YouTube rolls out new Miniplayer; the picture-in-picture feature allows users to watch videos while browsing; the company has been conducting limited tests on the Miniplayer design since March.
Amazon announces a new brick-and-mortar store: Amazon 4-Star; launched in SoHo, New York on Thursday; features top-rated items, best sellers, and new products trending on the site; includes sections Most Wished For (items frequently added to Wish Lists) and Frequently Bought Together.
Apple releases macOS 10.14, Mojave; includes system-wide Dark Mode, Desktop Stacks, new Finder features, and various security improvements; also adds Apple News, Home, Stocks, and Voice Memos.
Apple closes Shazam acquisition, will soon make the music recognition service free without ads; TechCrunch sources indicated a price of ~$400M; the EU authorized the deal several weeks ago.
Oculus announces Hybrid Apps: enables developers to adapt 2D apps, via SDK and APIs, for use in VR; also updated Home with social spaces, improved performance, and the ability to import assets; Facebook Spaces will get expressive avatars later this year.
Instagram adds notification support for browsers; lets users opt-in to alerts when using the service in Chrome, Safari, and Firefox; works across mobile and desktop.
Instagram’s cofounders resigned. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, respectively the CEO and chief technical officer of the Facebook-owned photo app, will leave the company in the coming weeks. Systrom and Mark Zuckerberg clashed over how Instagram data is shared with Facebook; Systrom also faced pressure from Instagram VP of Product Adam Mosseri and Facebook’s Chief Product Officer to allow more integration between the services.
WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton says he left because he disagreed with changes Facebook wanted to make to the messaging service; Acton notes he pushed back against proposals from Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg; Facebook wanted to introduce ads and make changes to encryption so it could sell analytics to third-parties; Acton chose to leave before his final tranche of stock vested which was worth ~$850M at the time (last April).
Microsoft announces AI for Humanitarian Action: a $40M, five-year initiative to support developers working on software and services that can benefit humanity; specifically focused on refugees and the displaced, children in need, disaster response, and human rights.
Microsoft is now rolling out Office 2019 for all Windows and Mac users (on-premise only, servers will go live in coming weeks); the Office 2016 successor offers a subset of Office 365 ProPlus features; includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Project, Visio, Access, and Publisher.
Microsoft announces Windows Virtual Desktop, an Azure service offering multi-user cloud machines with Office 365; limited to Windows 10 Enterprise and Education customers; includes Microsoft Store access.
Slack acquires productivity startup Astro Technology, which developed an AI-powered plugin for surfacing calendar and email data within Slack; Slack will sunset Astro on Oct 10, but will integrate its tech and team.
Snapchat is testing visual search powered by Amazon; enables the Snapchat camera to identify a product by sight or barcode; then opens a card for the same item or a similar listing on Amazon (app or site).
Spotify is creating playlists based on people’s DNA. The streaming platform is collaborating with Ancestry to suggest songs based on the cultures your ancestors came from.
Deezer researchers develop an AI system that can determine a song’s mood and intensity; analyzes audio and lyrics; employs the Million Song Dataset, which associates tracks with LastFM tags; also employs Word2vec embeddings trained using lyrics from 1.6M songs .
SurveyMonkey closed its first day of trading up 43% on Wednesday; the company priced shares at $12 for the Nasdaq debut and opened at $18.75; the price rose to as much as $20 per share before closing at $17.24; raised $180M by floating just over 14% of the company.
Toyota to support Android Auto; the automaker has resisted due to security concerns; announced Apple CarPlay support in January; before that, Toyota owners could only connect iOS and Android devices via Ford’s SmartDeviceLink .
Uber launches its lightweight app and a digital wallet service in Brazil; Uber Lite is just 5MB and is optimized for slower data connections; Uber Cash is aimed at those without bank accounts, allowing them to add credit using prepaid cards.
Uber commits $10M over three years to sustainable mobility; $250k goes to nonprofit SharedStreets, which is developing a data standard and platform for public-private collaboration; separate from the $10M fund, Uber launched JUMP bike charging stations in Sacramento.
Lyft is in talks with JP Morgan Chase to lead its IPO; Lyft has hired advisory firm Class V Group and is planning to go public in 2019; Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have both chosen not to participate as they’re planning to work on Uber’s IPO.
Didi Chuxing partners with SoftBank to launch a taxi-booking service in Osaka, Japan; unlike its main ride-hailing business, its Japanese app will use licensed taxis only; Didi says it eventually plans to expand the service to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Fukuoka. Follows similar move by Uber in Nagoya in early September.
Scooter rental firm Lime launches in Vienna; the company is already available in 6 other European cities including Berlin and Madrid; Lime says it plans to also expand to one or two Israeli cities in the next 30 days.
Electric scooter-sharing firm Bird is planning to expand across Asia and Latin America; the company is advertising for logistics experts and managers across a dozen new cities including Mumbai, Singapore, and Mexico City; Bird is also looking to establish an office in Hong Kong.
📚 Stuff to think about
Organic growth in enterprise products. A16z podcast with Andrew Chen talking about how Slack, Dropbox or Asana expanded in enterprise areas using consumer-product growth tactics.
Why Platform (aggregation) strategies are key in the modern economy. We’re spotting a pattern in modern economy: as long as one organization emerges that is capable to aggregate supply and demand on a market context successfully, and to create great vertically bundled experiences to monetize, niche markets get quickly organized, grown and developed.
Investigating the Relationship Between AI and Humanity: Wherever people land on the ethical questions of AI, philosophers can agree on one thing: it’s going to change society in a profound way.
The internet will split in two by 2028. Former Google chief Eric Schmidt says half will belong to China — where Google plans to reestablish its business — and half to the US.
Tim Berners-Lee unveils Solid, a new open-source web decentralization project; developed in partnership with MIT, aims to “restore the power and agency of individuals on the web” by giving users increased control over digital data.