el producto #105 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

CES announcements, Google’s Search cards, Twitter conversation features, The future of online marketplaces, Amazon Echo Auto, WeWork funding round, ...


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

Busy, busy week full of (mostly hardware) product announcements after CES. The general feeling is that this year’s CES didn’t see as many groundbreaking updates as last’s, and most announcements have been around evolutions or integrations of existing products (plenty around voice assistants and smart home). Find the full section on CES below.


🎰 The week in figures

$797B - On Monday, Amazon pulled ahead of Microsoft to become the most valuable company in the world. Amazon ended the trading day at $1,629.51 per share and a market cap of $797B, compared to $783B for Microsoft. (Amazon’s market cap has since crept up to $811B as of Thursday).

$69.4B - equity financing raised by private Chinese tech companies in 2018; a 63% increase from 2017; now stock sale volumes are declining and some companies are downsizing or postponing planned IPOs.

$2B - raised by WeWork this week from SoftBank. The company also rebranded to “The We Company.” The We Company is now valued at $47B.

1B - Google says Assistant will have an install base of 1B devices by the end of January; Assistant is available for Android and iOS devices, as well as being preloaded on a range of smart devices including Google’s own line of Home products.

68.6M - Global PC sales in Q4; down 4.3% YoY; total annual sales for 2018 were down 1.3%; Lenovo’s global PC sales were up 5.9% ; the company held 24.2% of market share

$12M - Bonus to Tim Cook by Apple for 2018, his largest-ever to date; during fiscal 2018 Cook also received a $3M salary, $121M from a 10-year stock award, and additional perks worth ~$680k.

$1.5M / year - average Amazon Go store revenue, ~50% more than a traditional shop with cashiers; Amazon’s cashier-free stores see 550 customers per day, typically spending $10 each; Amazon reportedly has considered opening 3k Go stores by 2021, which could generate $4.5B per year.

15.5% -smartphone shipments decrease in China last year, according to state-backed research institute CAICT; compares with data from Canalys which puts the figure at 12%; Canalys predicts shipments will fall below 400M in 2019, while CAICT suggests the number is already at ~390M.


📰 What’s going on

Google launches activity cards in search, enabling users to see past related searches; when a logged-in user searches for something matching a previous search, a card appears with the title, “Your related activity”.

Google Maps adds Google Assistant integration to its iOS and Android apps; will let users control navigation and music while driving, as well as reply to messages; Android users will also be able to send and receive messages via third-party services such as Viber, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

Twitter will begin publicly testing new conversation features in the coming weeks; includes status updates, presence indicators, and more; the features will initially be made available to select users, though anyone can apply to join the pilot program.

Amazon began shipping Echo Auto to pre-order customers just before Christmas; the dash-mounted device connects to Alexa via the user’s phone and sends audio to a vehicle’s speakers; offers media control, location search.

Amazon is testing a program through which brands can send out free samples as an advertising option; the company is using machine learning and customer history data for targeting.

Amazon is developing a video game streaming service; the product isn’t likely to launch until next year, at the earliest; Amazon reportedly has spoken with publishers about distribution deals; two job listings seek engineers for cloud gaming.

Amazon launches Key for Business, enabling company owners to provide delivery people with building access; Amazon also expanded the consumer version of Key, adding garage delivery to the previously available home and vehicle delivery options; also announced improved Ring support and third-party lock compatibility.

Amazon Web Services launches DocumentDB, a managed database supporting MongoDB code, drivers, and tools; Amazon says EC2 MongoDB users can migrate with almost no downtime.

Oculus Rift sells out on Amazon; the company says the VR headset saw strong demand over the holiday season; it’s still available via other retailers as Amazon works to restock.

GitHub makes private repositories available to non-paying users; previously, non-paying users were limited to public repositories; now, all users have access to unlimited private repositories, though free users’ private projects are limited to three collaborators.

Slack plans to go public via direct listing rather than IPO; reportedly plans to debut in Q2; the company has raised more than $1B since its 2013 launch; it was last valued in August at $7.1B.

Samsung to unveil a fully functional folding device at its Feb 20 event; will also reveal the 10th anniversary Galaxy S10 lineup, with three new models slated to hit shelves in March, and a 5G model set to launch in spring.

Leaked internal docs suggest Uber will be valued at ~$90B when it goes public; paperwork from March last year shows Uber had projected revenues of $14.2B by 2019 and has forecast $1.5B EBITDA in 2020. Dara Khosrowshahi says the firm still intends to launch an IPO this year, but did not commit to it, indicating the company would wait for favourable conditions.

Lyft partners with Segway-Ninebot to deploy longer lasting scooters at the end of Q1 or beginning of Q2; also plans to deploy Ninebot scooters with swappable batteries.

Microsoft and Kroger are testing a connected shopping system at two stores; a consumer can make a shopping list in a dedicated app; the app guides the buyer to each item in the store; Microsoft’s EDGE (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment) units, replace shelf tags, can display icons to alert the user to specific items, and display nutritional info, discounts, etc.

Barcelona-based Glovo, which provides a courier and tracking service for consumers, plans a new round to finance Latin American expansion; the company expects its Brazil deliveries to exceed its Spain deliveries this year.

Baidu announces Apollo Enterprise, a driverless platform for mass-produced vehicles; includes solutions for highway driving, integration with DuerOS voice assistant, and more; comes as Baidu launches Apollo 3.5, the latest build of its in-development autonomous driving tech.

Square launches the In-App Payments SDK for iOS and Android apps; the company says it completes an omni-channel solution for online and offline payments; provides a customizable on-boarding and payments flow; initially limited to developers in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Japan.

Berlin-based mobile banking company N26 is raising $300M Series D at a $2.7B valuation; the company says its user base has tripled to 2.3M since a $160M Series C in March of last year, for which N26 was valued at less than $1B; plans to launch in the US in coming months.

Intel-owned Mobileye, an Israel-based autonomous driving tech company, announces partnerships to expand in China; will work with EV manufacturer Great Wall Motors to integrate assistive features and to co-develop self-driving tech; also partnered with Beijing Public Transport Corp and Beijing Beytai to bring autonomy features to public transport.

SoMo is a “social transport” app that combines all modes of transport that are not a ride-hailing service. It allows people to create free rides through “social circles” around a specific destinations — from sporting events to concerts to the daily commute. SoMo will be available in 15 cities to start, including London, Athens, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Brussels, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Nice, Los Angeles, Helsinki, Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Almere Stad, Haarlem, and the Hague.


🚀 CES

IBM announces Q, a 20-qubit quantum computing system designed for scientific and commercial applications; Q is an early iteration of systems that will ultimately address processes that are too complex and exponential for classical computing; also announced Q Network: an initiative to bring researchers together to explore the possibilities of quantum computing.

IBM announces Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF), a hyper-local weather forecasting system that uses AI to analyze data from users’ smartphone sensors.

LG announces Signature OLED TV R, a 65-inch 4K TV that rolls into its base; the tech makes use of a flexible display which can roll out fully or show just a portion for music playback and smart device controls; includes Alexa and Google Assistant integration; launching this spring, price unknown.

Sony showcases Z9G, an 8K LCD TV available in 85-inch and 98-inch models; the company says it has developed a system to upscale 4K content to near-8K resolution.

Sony announces AirPlay 2 support for its 2019 TV lineup; will let users cast content from Apple devices and also support HomeKit; Sony’s TVs are powered by Android TV.

German auto company Continental demonstrates a robotic delivery dog; a simulation featured the device, designed by ANYbotics, taking a package from a truck to a customer’s door.

Audi spins out VR company Holoride; provides passengers with a VR experience that’s responsive to a vehicle’s movements and environments; Holoride plans to open the platform and release an SDK this year.

Sonos demonstrates Google Assistant running on its Beam speaker; the company plans to expand its beta testing program to thousands of users soon; the demo showcased media control (including a smart TV), weather forecasts, and Google Calendar interaction.

Samsung unveiled a whole suite of robotics products; included Samsung Bot Care, a stout robot that can read your vitals and remind you to take your medicine; the Bot Air, effectively an air purifier with eyes; and a robot meant to serve food in restaurants. The company also introduced Gems, a set of exoskeletons meant to aid people with mobility issues.

Samsung‘s 2019 QLED TV lineup will support Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa actions; will let users turn on a TV, change volume, and more via a standalone Google Home or Alexa device; the TVs will also have Bixby support built-in.

Samsung partners with Apple to put an iTunes app on its 2018 and 2019 TVs; will also add AirPlay 2 support for newer models; the app will let users access their iTunes movie and TV content, as well as allowing new purchases and rentals directly from the device.

Google pilots Interpreter Mode for smart displays and speakers running Google Assistant; provides real-time language translation; Google demonstrated the tech in a hospitality scenario: a German-speaking guest conversed with an English-speaking concierge; now live at three US hotels.

Google updates Assistant with flight check-ins and hotel bookings; flight check-in initially limited to domestic trips with United Airlines; hotel booking supports several brands, but the user must know the specific location for booking; rolling out over coming days.

Apple extended HomeKit compatibility to more devices, including certain WeMo light switches, KwikSet smart locks, and ConnectSense smart outlets, which will work natively with Apple products upon release this year.

Nemeio showcases a keyboard with programmable e-ink keys; features 81 configurable keys.

Nexus, a top helicopter manufacturer, is building a flying taxi. The slick, five-seater air taxi on display at CES is a concept model. The company aims to have test fleets by 2020 and units in operation by 2025.


📚 Something to think about

Leaky abstractions in online experimentation platforms. My ex-colleagues Lukas Vermeer and Timo Kluck from Booking.com share some not-so-obvious aspects of experimentation that are often missed due to the layer of abstraction that experimentation platforms hide.

The future of online marketplaces. This report released by Dealroom in December is crazy interesting: it sheds a lot of light on where opportunities lie in the future; an excellent complement to Andrew Chen’s perspective on the next 20 years of Marketplaces.

Designing (in) networks. We cannot design networks, but we can design IN networks. In this very interesting piece, you’ll find a nice exploration of the elements and implications of the concept of designing in networks and what we can learn from it to inform our work especially in dealing with complex social issues.

Bill Gates says there is not enough discussion surrounding the ethics and oversight of gene editing and that it could lead to greater inequality; gene editing is used in the US to treat disease, but a Chinese researcher recently claimed he contributed to creating the world’s first gene-edited babies; Gates says breakthroughs — good and bad — are coming.

The 30 best pieces of advice for entrepreneurs in 2018. The guys at First Round have parsed through every article they published in 2018 to find the insights that stood out and swam upstream against the currents of conventional thinking in tech last year.


📻 Something to listen to

Masters of scale talks to Eventbrite cofounder Julia Hartz. Hartz tells us how important is to build effective feedback loops and listen to customers in order to adjust your trajectory while keeping on target.


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