el producto #107 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

Platform defensability, Uber rewards, Product launch checklist, Go-Jek growth, Google Maps speed & traps notifications, A 5G future, Amazon delivery robots,…


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

🎰 The week in figures

1B - in streaming service-associated losses reported by Disney, citing investments in Hulu and BAMtech; the company plans to launch a new streaming service later this year.

$920M - Go-Jek raised from Google, Tencent, and JD.com; represents the initial phase of a $2B round which values the ride-hailing firm at $9.5B; raised more than $2B to date.

€910M - Bridgestone Europe acquires TomTom’s telematics unit for €910M; the deal is expected to close by the end of Q2.

77M - US monthly users of voice assistant in cars; compares with 45.7M monthly users on smart speakers.

$21.2M - spent by Google on US lobbying in 2018, its largest amount to date; Microsoft spent $9.5M last year, Apple spent $6.6M.

1M - fake accounts blocked daily by Facebook, according to COO Sheryl Sandberg; she said the company is also focusing on improvements in four other key areas: safety, election interference, data protection, and transparency.

5 - WhatsApp reduces users’ ability to forward messages in an attempt to mitigate the spread of rumors and misinformation; users are now limited to forwarding a message 5 times; previously 20. The company first instituted the 5-forward limit in India following rumor-fueled murders.


📰 What’s going on

iOS 12.2 beta includes a hidden feature for setting up full Siri voice controls for AirPods; will let users set up “Hey Siri” when pairing new AirPods; follows rumors Apple will launch next-gen AirPods soon.

Apple is transitioning 200 staff from its self-driving car unit to other parts of the company; known as Project Titan, the unit is developing autonomous tech; reasons for the move unclear.

Apple plans to launch its delayed AirPower device this quarter; the wireless charging mat is in production.

Google Maps launches speed trap and speed limit notification features; users can now view speed limits along their selected routes, as well as speed trap locations submitted by other Google Maps users.

Google is considering pulling its Google News service in the EU as lawmakers prepare new copyright legislation; the EU Copyright Directive will give publishers the right to demand payment from Google and others when sections of news articles appear in search results.

Google’s I/O developer conference to run May 7 to May 9 at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View; expected topics include Duplex and the next version of Android.

DeepMind’s AlphaStar, an AI with 200 years worth of “StarCraft II” gameplay knowledge, defeats pro players TLO and MaNa 10–1; AlphaStar used fewer actions per minute than the pros, and had a slower reaction time; DeepMind previously beat the world’s best “Go” players with its AlphaGo AI.

Facebook names Rafa Camargo as VP of AR/VR Hardware; Camargo previously oversaw the company’s Portal team; Andrew Bosworth remains VP of AR/VR, and Hugo Barra is still VP of VR.

Facebook launches Community Actions petition feature; it allows users to sign petitions to elected officials and government agencies for political causes.

Facebook to shut down standalone photo-sharing app Moments on Feb 25; launched in 2015; enables users to privately share photos with Facebook friends without uploading the images to Facebook.

Facebook is working with Airbus on solar-powered internet drones; the company shut down its Aquila drone project last year, but documents indicate Facebook held talks with Airbus to test similar UAVs in Australia in November and December.

Mark Zuckerberg plans to integrate the technical foundations of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger by early next year; each will continue to operate as a standalone app, but they will share a unified infrastructure.

Amazon unveils Scout: an autonomous last-mile delivery robot; the company is testing six units in Snohomish County, WA.

Twitter is rolling out a desktop redesign to some users; the simplified two-column layout features an updated Tending section, new shortcuts for tweets, a dedicated emoji button, more.

Twitter is testing a tag that indicates the originator of a tweet within a thread; the company is rolling out the feature to a limited number of users on iOS and Android.

Spotify is set to let users block music from specific artists; it will work on an artist’s own music, but not tracks on which they are featured; the update is rolling out soon

Microsoft and Facebook each file to patent new AR glasses designs; the Facebook model packs a waveguide display in a traditional sunglasses frame; Microsoft’s design is boxier and includes built-in earbuds and camera.

Microsoft Office 365 launches in the Mac App Store; features the same apps that are available from Microsoft’s website; users need an Office 365 subscription to use Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Microsoft partners with NewsGuard to enable Edge browser to alert users when visiting sites with low standards for accountability and accuracy; Microsoft is installing NewsGuard’s extension by default for all mobile versions of Edge.

Airbnb acquires Gaest, a Danish marketplace for rental spaces; terms undisclosed; the Gaest team will join Airbnb; its services will remain operational for the foreseeable future.

Uber is rolling out its Rewards program to 25 US markets; will be available nationwide soon; the rider loyalty program assigns a customer to a point-based rewards tier according to ride and Eats expenditures; depending on the tier, the rider can get free cancellations, guaranteed pricing between two locations, more.

Uber begins building “micromobility robotics” team to develop self-driving electric scooters and bicycles; it launched a new electric scooter service after purchasing transport firm Jump last year; the company is now hiring engineers to create scooters and bicycles that could automatically return to charging points.

Boeing successfully tests VTOL flying taxi prototype; the autonomous, electric vehicle launched, hovered, and landed; it did not transition from upward to forward motion; developed by Aurora Flight Sciences, which Boeing acquired in 2017; Aurora is working on a flying taxi for Uber.

Indonesian ride-hailing startup Go-Jek acquires fintech firm Coins.ph for $72M; Go-Jek is in the process of expanding into the Philippines, where Coins.ph offers a variety of mobile payment services to 5M registered users.

BMW and Daimler to brand their co-owned ride-hailing and ride-sharing platform Jurbey; the 50–50 joint venture includes the existing Car2Go and DriveNow units, and parking and charging services

Helsinki-based MaaS Global to launch subscription mobility app Whim in the US this year; multiple tiers offering subscription public transit, taxis, scooter and bike rentals, more; works with third-party providers including Hertz and Enterprise.

Netherlands Vehicles Authority clears Tesla’s Model 3 for European roads; the company expects to begin delivery of the long-range battery version to European customers in February; Tesla noted in a Q3 letter to investors that Europe’s mid-size premium sedan market is twice as large of that of the US.

LG teases a 5G smartphone with a vapor cooling chamber; full details unclear but LG says the chamber will help with device stability; the company is set to unveil its first 5G smartphone at MWC next month.

Xiaomi co-founder Lin Bin showcases a flexible display prototype; the device folds back at two points, roughly halving its usage area.

Sonos is developing over-ear wireless headphones with support for multiple voice assistants; expected to cost ~$300 and scheduled to launch sometime next year.

UK-based Dyson announces plans to relocate its HQ to Singapore; reasons for the move unclear but the company says it is not because of Brexit or corporate tax rates.

China agrees to join multinational talks relating to $25T global e-commerce market; 75 countries plan to work on an accord to establish new terms for digital trade and data flows.

UK-based telco BT secures licenses to run certain operations in China; represents the first overseas firm to receive such authorization; BT is permitted to contract with and bill customers living in the country.


💰 Q4 financial results

Intel ($227.1B market cap) Q4 mixed: $18.7B revenue, up 9% YoY ($19B expected); the company forecasts Q1 revenue of $16B ($17.3B expected); stock falls as much as 8% in after-hours trading.


📚 Something to think about

Platforms defensibility. Why some platforms thrive and others don’t. In this brilliant article full of recent examples, HBR explores the keys to make a platform successful, and why network effects won’t work the same way for one or another. “As Didi is learning, it’s often easier for a digital platform to achieve scale than to sustain it. After all, the advantages that allow the platform to expand quickly work for its competitors and anyone else who wants to get into the market”.

Benedict Evans details what 5G will mean to consumers and how it will impact other technologies: users can expect greater speeds, reduced latency, and some competition in fixed home broadband; existing apps will get richer and new apps will emerge to take advantage of the tech; mobile AR is likely to benefit; 5G will also impact autonomous vehicles and related tech.

The end of the “move fast, break things” era? Hemant Taneja of VC firm General Catalyst writes that emerging tech, from AI to genomics, has societal implications that are too vast not to consider when building a business. He offers a series of questions that VCs should be thinking about to identify companies that understand the potential impact of their products and aspire to be diverse, accountable organizations.

Where is AI heading to? MIT analyzed 16,625 papers through 25 years of AI research to figure out the trends. Every decade has seen different technique reign: neural networks in the late ’50s and ’60s, various symbolic approaches in the ’70s, knowledge-based systems in the ’80s, Bayesian networks in the ’90s, support vector machines in the ’00s, and neural networks again in the ’10s. The 2020s should be no different, meaning the era of deep learning may soon come to an end. The research community has competing ideas about what will come next.

The ultimate Product launch checklist. This handy infographic from AMaqsood is packed full of product-launch wisdom and organized into a tidy checklist you can keep at hand to review as you prepare to launch.


📻 Something to listen to

A CES review by Ben Evans and Steven Sinofsky from a16z.


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