el producto #88 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

Google kills Inbox, Apple’s new products, Facebook’s AI tools, Alibaba leading innovation in China, Spotify looks offline, Meituan IPO & more.

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

🎰 The week in figures

~$4.2B plans to raise Chinese local services firm Meituan Dianping after pricing its IPO at ~$8.50 per share; aiming for a valuation of $48B; the company previously gave a guide price of $7.60 to $9.20 per share; set to go public Sept 20.

250M Pinterest monthly active users, up 25% since September 2017; more than half of Pinterest’s users and 80% of new signups are outside the US; claims 175B pins, up 75% YoY; now has 1.5k employees, up 32% YoY.

10k. Spotify increases offline listening limits from 3.3k songs to 10k; users can download tracks to a maximum of five devices, up from the previous limit of three.

35% of teenagers prefer to communicate via messaging apps rather than in-person, shows a study by non-profit Common Sense Media; 13% claim to have been the victim of cyberbullying; 33% say they wish their parent spent less time on devices; 72% say tech companies manipulate users into spending more time on devices.


📰 What’s going on

Google to discontinue the Inbox email app by the end of next March; launched in 2014, Inbox has served as a proving ground for efficiency-focused features that ultimately made their way to Gmail; for example, Smart Reply.

Google plans Digital Wellbeing integration with Google Assistant and Home smart devices; the tool aims to manage device use, offering automatic do-not-disturb features and access filters; it’s already launched for Youtube and Google Calendar, and it’s scheduled to roll out on Android this fall.

Samsung announces expanded partnership with Google to ensure Rich Communication Services (RCS) work seamlessly between Samsung Messages and Android Messages; RCS enables rich group chats, high-resolution media, typing indicators, read receipts, more.

Microsoft acquires Lobe, a platform enabling drag-and-drop construction of AI models; Lobe will continue operating independently for the time being, though Microsoft will eventually use it to improve its own AI simplification efforts.

Instagram unveils personalized emoji shortcuts; the company began testing the new feature publicly in May; the update is now available on Android and iOS.

Facebook announces Rosetta: an AI system that extracts and analyzes text from images and video; Rosetta can automatically identify content that violates the company’s hate-speech policy; other potential applications include improved search, screen reader support for visual content, identifying content for News Feed, more.

Facebook deploys SapFix, an AI-powered tool for debugging code, testing and recommending patches, more; the company is currently using the tool internally and plans to eventually make it available to other developers.

Apple removes nearly all references to AirPower wireless charging mat from its website; the device was first announced at its iPhone event in 2017 and was set to launch this year; follows reports AirPower has suffered manufacturing and supply chain issues

Snap makes crowdsourced Our Story content available to 20 media partners, including CNN and NBC News; those organizations will be able to integrate user-generated content with original Stories; for example, Hurricane Florence coverage could incorporate content generated by affected residents.

Snapchat reveals the first class for its Yellow startup accelerator; targets media companies for three-month residency and investments of $150k (reportedly for 7-10%equity); the first nine participants include AR/VR studio ANRK, lifestyle brand Premme, and SelfieCircus, which plans visually enticing pop-ups for social media posts.

Nintendo to launch Switch Online Sept 18 with a seven-day free trial; will provide online features for some titles, cloud game saves, and access to 20 NES titles at launch; plans: $4 per month, $8 for three months, or $20 per year; $35-per-month family plan will support up to seven users.

Zendesk acquires CRM platform Base; Base provides AI-powered customer management tools to enterprise users; raised more than $50M to date.

Twilio acquires Prague-based Ytica, which analyzes contact center data and metrics; the tech will act as an analytical layer on top of the Twilio Flex app platform; Twilio has raised $261M to date.

Walmart relaunches Jet with three-hour deliveries, localized messages and imagery, and a focus on major metropolitan areas; Walmart-owned Parcel handles deliveries in New York; also updated the iOS app so a user can build a shopping list via Siri; the app will offer personalized product and re-order suggestions.

Walmart acquires Cornershop, an on-demand grocery delivery company serving Latin America, for $225M; contracted drivers can stop at multiple locations to fill an order; works with supermarkets, pharmacies, and specialty food retailers in Chile and Mexico.

Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma will step down as chairman next year when he turns 55; Ma will remain on the board until 2020; CEO Daniel Zhang will assume the chairman position; Ma recently indicated he plans to focus on teaching and philanthropy once he’s retired. Zhang joined Alibaba from Shanda Interactive Entertainment in 2007, initially serving as CFO; the company’s stock value has risen 87% since Zhang became CEO in 2015.

Indonesia-based Go-Jek launches several services in Hanoi, Vietnam; known as Go-Viet, the company is offering ride-hailing, on-demand deliveries, food ordering, and mobile payments; the firm already operates in Ho Chi Minh City; part of a previously announced $500M expansion into Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Go-Jek also shuts down its Indonesian shopping service Go-Mart; users are directed to a pared-down service called Go-Shop; unlike Go-Mart, Go-Shop does not list products, but instead users have to tell drivers what they want and where to get it from.

Uber to invest $150M in Toronto over the next five years; will facilitate a new engineering hub, and growing the local team from 200 to 500 employees; the hub is slated to open early next year; Uber opened the Toronto Advanced Technologies Group office in May of last year.


🍏 Apple announcements

This week was Apple’s yearly September event. Here are the updates and products presented:

  • Next-generation iPhones: XR (6.1-inch LCD), XS (5.8-inch OLED), and XS Max (6.5-inch OLED); all come in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB storage options; the XR comes in Blue, coral, yellow, white, black, and Project Red; the XS and XS Max come in Gold, silver, and space gray finishes; XS and XS Max orders open Sept 14; on shelves Sept 21; XR orders open Oct 19; on shelves Oct 26.
  • Watch Series 4; 40mm and 44mm models; smaller bezels, thinner bodies; display edges are rounded; the back is now black ceramic and sapphire crystal; S4 SoC promises 3x the performance of the last generation; supports full ECGs; pre-orders open Sept 14; on shelves Sept 21.
  • MacOS Mojave on Sept 24; adds system-wide Dark Mode and Dynamic Desktop (changing wallpaper); new Desktop Stacks automatically organize files by file kind, date, and tag; Finder gains Gallery View with large preview and thumbnail navigation, customizable Quick Actions, and markup for Quick Look.
  • iOS 12 on Sept 17; compatible with all devices that run iOS 11; promises improved performance for older and recent devices; supports the new USDZ file format, co-created with Pixar for AR integration across iOS and supporting apps and websites; adds Siri Shortcuts, Screen Time, and numerous app updates.
  • tvOS 12 on Sept 17; adds Zero Sign-On (limited to Charter Spectrum at launch), support for Dolby Atmos, password auto-fill, more; iOS 12’s Control Center will feature tvOS control by default.
  • HomePod update with calling, the ability to locate other Apple devices, multiple timers, Siri Shortcuts, more; update rolls out Sept 17.

📚 Stuff to think about

The 5 qualities that contribute most to team success. This study by Google on 180 teams unveils the following areas: psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning, and impact. Complement this read with a recent article from HBR on giving freedom to teams to do the work they think matters the most.

How Alibaba is leading digital innovation in China. Ming Zeng, Chief Strategy Officer at Alibaba, says on this HBR IdeaCast the keys are: leveraging automation, algorithms, and networks to better serve customers.

Conserve the sound: an online archive is preserving sounds that are endangered in our world, including Nintendo controllers and Sony Walkmen.


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el producto is a curated selection of Tech&Product happenings within the last few days from a curious and frequently skeptical Product Owner’s perspective.