el producto #100 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

Lyft IPO, Quora breach, Lime in London, Apple’s sleep monitor, Helsinki drone delivery, Skype’s live captions, Uber groceries, Insights vs Out-of-sights, & more.

Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto!

🎰 The week in figures

$98.6B - Raised by SoftBank for its Vision Fund, with participation of 14 investors; compares with $93.1B from 8 backers a year ago; first launched in May 2017, Vision Fund is targeting $100B; so far it has invested $21B in more than 20 deals.

$15B - valuation expected by Lyft after confidentially filing for an IPO; Lyft has raised $5.1B to date; the IPO is scheduled for the first half of 2019.

4B - people worldwide without an address that could benefit from a Facebook-MIT project to identify and assign physical addresses based on satellite imagery using a deep-learning algorithm.

$1B - target funding being raised by Parking tech firm ParkJockey; the funds will be used to acquire parking lot operators Lanier and Impark; ParkJockey lets users find and pay for available parking spots via a smartphone app.

100M - users affected by Quora data breach; the company discovered the hack on Nov 30; Quora says hackers may have taken names, email addresses, and data from linked networks; also says encrypted passwords were stolen; the company is notifying those it believes are affected.

1k - e-bikes deployed by Lime in London on Friday; initially limited to the boroughs of Brent and Ealing; the electric-assisted bicycles cost £1 to unlock and £0.15 per minute.


📰 What’s going on

Apple will wait until at least 2020 to launch a 5G iPhone; Gartner analyst Mark Hung suggests its risky for Apple to wait beyond 2020 due to rival products. Samsung says it will launch a 5G handset within H1 2019.

Apple rolls out watchOS 5.1.2, adds support for ECG readings on Apple Watch Series 4; also introduces irregular heart rate monitoring with alerts for perceived abnormalities.

Apple to update Music for Android with tablet support; the latest beta adds the feature, three years after the app launched; in September, Apple updated its Music app for Android with improved Android Auto compatibility and better Google Assistant integration.

Apple is trying various tactics to boost sales of its newer iPhones; it’s offering a $300 discount on an iPhone XR when trading-in an iPhone 7.

Apple acquires creative services platform Platoon; the London-based company helps musicians, writers, and other creatives to produce, distribute, and commercialize their works.

Apple launches the Beddit Sleep Monitor v3.5; Apple acquired Beddit last year and received FCC approval this week to sell an updated product; the new $150 mattress mat connects to iOS devices to share data with the Beddit app and Apple Health; measures breathing, snoring, heart rate, more.

Amazon launches Alexa Answers, urging select users (invite only) to answer questions and provide information for topics in which Alexa’s knowledge base is lacking; during the beta, users provided 100k answers.

Amazon may open cashierless Go stores at a number of US airports; the company has looked at Los Angeles International (LAX) and San Jose International (SJC) as possible locations.

Google will shut down its Allo messaging service at the end of March 2019; the company paused Allo development earlier this year noting the app had not gained the level of traction it had hoped for.

Google launches Chrome v71 for Windows, Mac, and Linux; now blocks all ads on sites that persistently display abusive ads; includes those that appear as system messages, have fake close buttons, etc; the browser also detects sites that don’t follow best practices for user payments.

Google launches Flutter v1.0, a UI framework for developing native iOS and Android apps based on the Dart programming language; in February, Flutter will launch Add to App, enabling developers to integrate Flutter features into existing apps; supports thousands of plugins. The company also announced Project Hummingbird, an experiment that brings the Flutter runtime to the web; compiles Dart code in JavaScript, enabling it to run in any modern browser.

Google and Amazon to launch AirPod competitors in the second half of next year; Apple is expected to launch AirPods with wireless charging in the first quarter of next year, and an all-new design in 2020.

Google launches a personalized audio news service for Home users; offers a playlist of recent stories collected from outlets such as Axios, The New York Times, and The Hollywood Reporter; rolling out now to users in the US.

Google releases ARCore v 1.6, an SDK for developing AR content for Android and ChromeOS; promises better lighting, enabling objects to more realistically respond to color and lighting changes in the surrounding environment; also adds native screen capture and recording.

Google’s DeepMind publishes findings from its AlphaZero project — a deep learning program that taught itself to beat other AI programs at chess, shogi, and Go; AlphaZero taught itself the games and was able to beat Stockfish (chess), elmo (shogi), and DeepMind’s own AlphaGo Zero (Go); DeepMind says AlphaZero used novel ideas and unique strategies to master each game, suggesting it could teach humans new playing styles.

YouTube rolls out autoplaying homescreen videos for its iOS and Android apps; videos play with the sound off and captions on; YouTube says playback will use less mobile data than on the regular watch page; users can set the feature to Wi-Fi only or turn it off entirely.

Alphabet-owned drone delivery firm Wing will launch a commercial pilot program in Helsinki, Finland, next spring; the drones will transport packages weighing up to 1.5Kgs within a 10Km range; all deliveries will be free during the testing period.

Facebook is testing Live Video Mode for Sellers; currently limited to Pages in Thailand, one of the company’s most active Marketplace communities; a viewer can screenshot an item and send the image to the seller via Messenger for a quick purchase.

Facebook drops a policy that prevents developers from offering services which directly compete with the platform’s core features; Facebook previously shut off API access to Vine, Voxer, MessageMe, and others for violating the policy.

Facebook falls from first to seventh on Glassdoor’s annual Best Place to Work rankings; Bain & Company tops the list followed by Zoom Video Communications and In-N-Out Burger; Google ranks eighth.

Microsoft updates Skype with real-time subtitles and captions; subtitles work for audio and video calls; both can be set to on by default; currently, text auto-scrolls during a call, but Microsoft plans a user-scrollable side window; PowerPoint will see real-time captions and subtitles in 2019.

Microsoft is developing a Chrome OS competitor called Windows Lite; the instant on, always connected OS reportedly runs on any CPU type and supports the company’s UWP app format; also runs the PWA platform, using Edge browser as Chromebooks do Chrome.

Netflix plans to commission original shows from Africa in 2019; the company’s international efforts have so far focused on Asia, Europe, and Latin America; a Netflix representative predicts half of its 10 most popular shows will eventually come from outside the US.

Mixcloud introduces a subscription service that lets fans directly support their favorite artists; Mixcloud Select starts at $3 per month for each creator, though artists can set a higher rate; fans get access to offline listening with plans for exclusives and more.

Nvidia demonstrates a video game that features AI-generated graphics based on real-world imagery; represents the first interactive AI-rendered virtual world; Nvidia built upon existing techniques and used training information from data sets for autonomous driving applications.

Vine successor Byte opens creator registrations; the looping video app plans a full launch in the spring; in addition to current audience size, the creator program application form asks early adopters for old Vine usernames.

Bose to launch “audio AR” glasses Frames in January; $200 pre-orders are open now; at launch, the glasses — available in square and round models — will support music playback, digital assistant access, and voice calling; will support Bose AR apps later next year.

Didi Chuxing announces an internal reorganization aimed at improving safety for its users; the company will add a chief safety officer and a chief information security officer; it will also consolidate its ride-hailing operations into a single unit.

Uber is close to acquiring Bird for as much as $2B; follows a report Uber held takeover talks with Bird and Lime.

Uber explores grocery service in Canada; the company is hiring a Toronto-based Head of Grocery Product to help develop “a brand new product offering which will fundamentally evolve how people purchase their groceries”.

Uber says it will resume its driverless car testing in Pittsburgh within a few weeks; the company will run a scaled-back program operating on a mile loop between two of its offices; vehicles will also be restricted to 25 mph, and they won’t drive at night or in wet conditions.

Dubai-based ride-hailing company Careem launches a bus-booking service in Egypt and plans expansion to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan; the company provides a dedicated app called Careem Bus, which enables users to set pick-up and drop-off locations, and to track buses on a map.

Shuttle-based carpooling service Via plans to add scooters to its lineup in select cities; the company is working to build out its shuttle platform, and hopes to power public transit in about 300 cities by the end of the year.

Waymo launches Waymo One, a commercial autonomous ride-hailing service; initially available to a limited number of users in parts of Phoenix, AZ; customers are collected in a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica with a safety driver behind the wheel; Waymo says it plans to remove drivers at a future date; Waymo is experimenting with pricing but The Verge says fares are currently comparable to Uber and Lyft.

Grab confirms it has invested $103M in India-based hotel booking platform Oyo; represents the latest tranche of Oyo’s Series E which has a $1B target; Oyo has raised $1.6B to date.

Yandex launched its first smartphone this week; the $270 Yandex Phone runs Android 8.1 and includes virtual assistant Alice; features 5.65-inch display at 2160 x 1080, Snapdragon 630, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage.


📚 Stuff to think about

Aggregators and Jobs-To-Be-Done. Aggregators don’t simply get better at what they were already good at, they expand their purview into the broadest possible definition of their activity in order to fulfil customers’ “job-to-be-done’. E.g. dockless electric scooters are eating into the traditional ride-sharing market, and Uber is looking to acquire.

Insights vs Out-of-sights. The word insights tends to be badly abused, often to denominate obvious and redundant facts. Avinash Kaushik suggest an approach to battle this, delivering more meaning and impact.

Microsoft is worth as much as Apple. How did that happen? By betting big on the cloud while and walking away from losing bets, they have become a case study of how a once-dominant company can build on its strengths and avoid being a prisoner of its past.

Netflix, Prime, Blue Apron: How subscription businesses are taking over. Paid subscription-based business models help restore the healthy dynamic between the vendor and the customer. It’s not about the physical product itself, but what the customer is trying to do that matters.

What are Airbnb main challenges ahead of its IPO? While pushing for an “end-to-end travel platform”, Homes still generates +95% of revenue and hosts’ growth is slowing down. Tighter regulation around short-stay rentals is also threatening Homes division growth. Other initiatives like Airbnb Plus are falling short of expectations.


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