el producto #54 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

Siri news briefings, Spotify getting visual, Airbnb’s split pay, WhatsApp for business, Facebook’s Messenger VP vision, Youtube’s consumption figures & more.

Welcome to el producto #54!

📰 What’s going on

Apple plans to open a second US campus as part of its commitment to invest $350B in the US over the next 5 years; will announce the location later this year; the campus will initially house tech support agents.

Apple launches Siri news briefings (previously in beta) in the US, UK, and Australia; asking for the latest news in the US triggers news podcasts from The Washington Post, with Fox News, NPR, and CNN also an option; users in the UK can listen to updates from BBC News, Sky News, and LBC Radio.

Apple will release an iOS update to let iPhone users turn off power management tools; Tim Cook says the update will launch in developer preview next month.

Google will use page load speed as a ranking signal for mobile search beginning in July; previously implemented for desktop search; “Speed Update” will hold all pages to the same standard, regardless of web technology used.

Google launches AutoML Vision, a tool for building custom image recognition models; the drag and drop service lets users import a set of images and tags which AutoML uses to create a scalable machine learning model.

YouTube adjusts its monetization requirements for creators; from Feb 20, channels must have more than 1k subscribers and have garnered more than 4k annual viewing hours to be eligible for the partner program. Moderators will review every second of the most popular videos by the end of March.

Spotify launches Spotlight, using video, images, and text to deliver news and stories; will cover pop culture, sports, more; content sources include BuzzFeed News and Gimlet media.

Airbnb introduces Pay Less Up Front, a feature to let users pay 50% when they book, and the rest nearer their trip; the company says 40% of users chose the option during a testing phase, and that travelers ultimately went for higher-value bookings.

Facebook is testing a new group video viewing feature called Watch Party; a Group admin can choose any recorded public video for the group to watch in sync.

WhatsApp launches its new Business app in select markets; includes the US, UK, and Mexico; the service adds business profiles and more advanced messaging tools for communicating with customers (greeting messages, quick replies, etc); initially limited to Android, primarily targets small businesses.

WhatsApp is testing a notification feature to tackle chain-message spam, according to reports; some users are being shown an advisory notice if they’re about to send along content that has already been forwarded many times; message recipients also receive a similar warning.

Amazon to update Fire TV with “On Now” section; simplifies the discovery of live programming available through Amazon Channels (add-on stations for Prime Video); the new Channel Guide enables users to browse the schedule of upcoming live programming.

Coursera launches a program for training tech professionals — written by Google employees; covers six topics within the subject, including system administration and security; program consists of 64 hours of coursework.

Y Combinator software engineer Cadran Cowansageannounces Leap: a social network for women working in tech, built by women; in private beta with about 1.5k members; users include VCs, founders, designers, etc.

Lyft launches its Concierge service in general availability; enables organizations to schedule rides for others; was initially limited to a small number of partners, primarily for medical appointments.

Nintendo gains almost $1.4B in market cap following the Jan 17 announcement of Labo: a series of cardboard-based maker kits for the Switch console; Labo do-it-yourself projects includie a playable piano and a fishing rod for a fishing game.

Ride hailing firm Grab acquires India-based payments startup iKaaz; iKaaz offers a range of services including tools for brick-and-mortar retailers and Mowa, a digital wallet for consumers.

Two AI programs by Microsoft and Alibaba beat humans in a Stanford reading comprehension test; human participants scored an average 82.304; Alibaba’s AI scored 82.44 on Jan 11 and Microsoft’s AI scored 82.65 the next day; Alibaba’s chief AI research scientist, Luo Si, notes that the technology will ultimately lead to the automation of many jobs.


📚 Stuff to think about

David Marcus, Facebook’s VP of messaging products, says Messenger has become too cluttered; Marcus notes the service has introduced a lot of features over the last two years, but that many haven’t found their market fit; Marcus says a new design is in the works and he expects video messaging will become even more important.

Darn drop-down menus. Don Norman (@jnd1er) argues that poor system design, not human error, was responsible for Hawaii’s missile alert mishap.


🚀 The week in figures

Lyft claims to have completed 375.5M rides in 2017, up 130% from 2016.

39M people in the US own a smart speaker; a survey of almost 2k individuals found more than half have a smart speaker in their living room, 21% have one in their kitchen, and 19% in their bedroom.

Oppo R9s was the best-selling phone in China last year with 3% market share;iPhone 7 Plus was the second with 2.8%, iPhone 7 was the fifth at 2.4% ; Apple was the only overseas brand to appear in the top 10.

Apple sold about 19.6M Macs in 2017, an increase from the 18.5M units it reported to have moved in 2016; the tech giant now claims the title of the world’s fourth-largest retailer of PCs; in 2017, was beat out by HP (58.8M), Lenovo (54.8M), and Dell (41.8M).

70% of Youtube content consumption comes from recommendation algorithms and users watch 1B hours of content daily.


📷 Pic of the week

Avinash Kaushik argues that the recent updates on Facebook’s feed algorithm won’t make a big difference on businesses, and that Facebook will keep aggressively selling paid ads no matter what:


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