Musk’s plan for Australia’s clean energy, iPhone face recognition, Mindfulness and creativity, Alibaba & Samsung speakers, Writing about product & more.
Alibaba and Samsung present their own home speakers; each will be powered by their respective firms' assistants: Tmall Genie in Mandarin for Alibaba, Bixby in Korean for Samsung (with plans for English version soon). Meanwhile, Alexa skills have more than doubled since beginning of the year, reaching 15k, far ahead of the 400 from Google Assistant, its closest follower.
Microsoft is reorganizing its internal sales teams to focus on cloud services, specifically targeting SMEs and large enterprise customers. Due to re-org, they will layoff up to 3k people (less than 10% of their global salesforce); 75% of layoffs will be outside the US. Microsoft has 71k employees in the US and 121k worldwide.
My favourite read of the week is about Mindfulness and Creativity, two topics very dear to me, which I try to practice on daily basis.
📰 Seen on the news
Elon Musk signs coal energy’s dead warrant. Musk will build the world’s biggest lithium ion battery in 100 days to provide energy to Australia.
Google launches Blocks: a VR app for modeling 3D objects; available for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift; generates OBJ files to export for use in AR and VR apps; can also generate animated gifs and share to web.
Apple’s 5.8-inch OLED iPhone 8 will use face recognition instead of Touch ID, according to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Ku; will feature the highest screen-to-body ratio of any current device. Bloomberg sources confirm 3D face scanning; one source says Apple is also testing eye scanning for authentication.
Microsoft launches Workplace Analytics; addon available for any Office 365 enterprise plan; analyzes email and calendar metadata to provide employee behavior metrics; applications include measuring sales productivity and management effectiveness, meeting planning, more.
Alibaba announces the Tmall Genie, a smart speaker powered by the AliGenie voice assistant; offers smart home control, music streaming, news and weather, more; can also order products from Alibaba commerce site Tmall; initially launching for $74 in limited beta and only in Mandarin; first units to ship mid-July. Samsung is also developing its own smart speaker based on its Bixby assistant (for now only Korean).
Amazon’s Alexa now has more than 15k skills, up from 10k in February and 7k at the beginning of the year; comparatively, Google Assistant has fewer than 400 voice apps and Cortana has about 65 skills; Flash Briefings skills — news and information apps — account for roughly 20 percent of all Alexa skills.
Snapchat adds voice filters, backdrops, URL support, and on-demand location filters; users can pay $6 to create a filter for an event (wedding, birthday party etc.).
Online supermarket Ocado is testing autonomous grocery delivery vans in London; the vehicles belong to Oxbotica, an Oxford University spinoff.
Ticketmaster partners with data-over-audio company Lisner to create an event admission system that utilizes inaudible sound; when the customer has the ticketing app open, the phone emits ultrasonic sound waves; a venue can install scanners at the gates and around merchandise, concessions, restrooms, etc, to track movement and other data.
Lauren Goode reviews Amazon Echo Look for The Verge; cites the ability to take floor-length photos and short videos for review and comparison; a companion app gives feedback on outfits, suggests purchases, and more; notes a weak speaker and limited use case.
Uber rolled out in-app tipping to 121 markets in the US and Canada this week; major markets include New York, San Francisco, and Toronto.
Lyft passes 1M rides per day; it’s achieved 48 consecutive months of ride growth and is on track for a 350M annualized ride rate; Uber said in July of last year it was completing 5.5M rides per day, and last week announced 5B total completed trips; Lyft operates in the US only, whereas Uber operates in multiple international markets.
Tesla is set to deliver the Model 3 to the first 30 customers on July 28; Elon Musk suggests the first vehicle will come off the assembly line on July 7; the firm is set to produce 100 in August, and more than 1.5k in September; Musk also suggests the firm may be able to produce 20k cars per month by the end of the year.
Sonnet Labs launches a Kickstarter for a mobile mesh networking device; lets users send chat messages, voice recordings, images, and GPS locations from their mobile without a cellular connection; device-to-device data transfers occur over long-range radio frequencies; has raised $67k on a $17k goal, ends Aug 1.
Sony’s subscription game-streaming service, PlayStation Now, now supports PS4 titles; playable on PS4 and Windows 10 PCs; currently has 20 PS4 titles; more to be added in coming months; the service has more than 500 titles total; Sony is offering a $10 first month for new subscribers and a $100 first year (purchase in advance).
📚 Good reads
Tencent Dominates in China. Next Challenge Is Rest of the World. I am deeply fascinated by Chinese Tech scene, especially within the last 5–6 years with the boom of the Mobile-first approach taken by many Chinese companies. WeChat and Tencent (the behemoth behind it) are the perfect example of the Chinese paradox: Copy + iterate on local customer needs = boom! In this article Bloomberg tells us the story behind Tencent’s dramatic growth and its ambitious aspirations.
5 Highly Effective Ways to Make Your Presentation More Memorable. Larry Kim with 5 simple and actionable tips to help you master the art of public speaking.
How critical journeys can help your product take off. Austin Chang explains how to unleash product growth by focusing on the very few things that matter to users.
Mindful meditation to boost creativity and innovation. Bianca Rothschild writes about the benefits of mindfulness to become more creative, and how companies like Google or Walt Disney facilitate it in the workplace.