el producto #92 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

Facebook’s Portal devices, Google’s Home Hub & new Pixels, Coinbase & Mailchimp success lessons, Apple’s App store growth & more.

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

🎰 The week in figures

~$300M China-based Airbnb rival Xiaozhu raises, led by Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital; comes as the company announces plans for a smart security system using tech from Alibaba; Xiaozhu already uses Alibaba’s facial recognition tools for door locks.

$200M ride-hailing firm Grab raises from Microsoft; as part of the deal Grab will transition to Microsoft Azure and the two companies will collaborate on new tech.

10M: Google’s driverless car unit, Waymo, said its autonomous vehicles have now driven 10 million miles on public roads.

93% more revenue generated by Apple’s App Store vs Google Play during Q3; it’s the widest gap since at least 2014, when Sensor Tower began tracking Play revenue; the App Store’s $12B represented 66% of the $18.2B in total app revenue for the quarter; Play generated $6.2B.


📰 What’s going on

Rumored next-generation iPad Pro will feature USB-C and Face ID; the device will be capable of outputting 4K HDR video to an external monitor; Apple will also launch a new Pencil with proximity pairing (similar to AirPods pairing); Apple is expected to announce new hardware later this month.

Apple applies for a patent on technology for detecting whether an incoming call is using a spoofed number; would check call data headers, if a call is made via VOIP, more; would compare suspect calls to a database and notify recipients of spam calls; Apple would require cooperation with telecoms to deploy the tech.

Apple plans to make its original programming freely available to device owners via the TV app; will also offer subscription channels from companies like HBO; reportedly plans to launch the updated app early next year.

Facebook announces Portal and Portal Plus: two smart displays primarily intended for video chats; an owner can call other Portal owners, Facebook users, and Facebook Messenger users; can also stream audio via Spotify and Pandora, and video from Facebook Watch.

Facebook announces 3D Photos; a user with a supported iPhone (7 Plus, 8 Plus, X, or XS) selects “3D Photo” when creating a new post; Facebook uses the depth information the camera collects for depth-of-field effects; once posted, viewers can change perspective via mouse or finger; also viewable in Oculus headsets.

Facebook updates the Workplace and Work Chat with cross-company voice, video, and chat conversations; Work Chat now offers scheduled do not disturb hours, pinned messages, more; Workplace also has pinned messages.

Facebook tests voice-activated messages and calls; Messenger for Android’s code contains a new voice command assistant button; the company said it’s experimenting with the feature internally.

Google updates Translate with visual translation for 13 new languages, including Arabic, Hindi, and Thai; now supports visual translations for ~50 languages.

Google unveils the Home Hub: a $150 Assistant Smart Display with 7-inch screen; recognizes users by voice for personalized features, such as calendar, commute information, reminders, more; provides information from and interactivity with smart door locks, smart thermostats, etc; pre-orders now open, ships Oct 22.

Google announces the Pixel Slate: a Chrome OS tablet with detachable keyboard; launches later this year, starting at $600 with Celeron processor; high-end configurations include a Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and 256GB storage; fingerprint sensor integrated with power button.

Google announces the $800 Pixel 3 and $900 Pixel 3 XL, launching on Oct 18; both come with 64GB storage, upgradable to 128 GB for an additional $100; both feature a Snapdragon 845, a Titan security chip, and 4GB RAM; pre-orders are now open.

Google unveils third-generation Chromecast; streams 1080p video at 60fps; $35 device integrates with Google Home for voice commands; capable of multi-room audio; Google has shipped 55M Chromecast units since its 2013 launch.

Google to begin rolling out Duplex to Pixel phones next month; the Google Assistant feature makes robotic calls to businesses on behalf of users; will initially be limited to users calling restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Phoenix, and Atlanta.

Google updates the Home app with a new design, Google Assistant, the ability to control numerous third-party devices from within the app, the ability to control smart home devices remotely, more.

Google open-sources the Active Question Answering (ActiveQA) research project, which explores to use of reinforcement learning to train AI to answer questions; repeatedly asks QA systems the same questions using variations in natural language, with the goal of finding better answers.

Samsung announces 6.3-inch Galaxy A9 (2018) featuring four back cameras; comprises a 24MP main lens, 8MP wide-angle lens, 10MP telephoto lens, and 5MP lens for depth effects; runs Snapdragon 660 with 6GB RAM; launching in Europe for €600/£550 (~$700).

Twitter removes the ability to create Moments in iOS and Android; the company says the feature is rarely used and that it wants to focus on other features; users can still create Moments on the desktop web version of Twitter.

Amazon shut down an AI-powered recruitment tool because it showed bias against women; the system’s goal was to find the top candidates from a stack of resumes, but the algorithm was trained using resumes mostly submitted by men; the algorithm began to filter out applications that included words such as “women’s” and also down-ranked graduates from all-female colleges.

EU antitrust regulators to approve Microsoft’s $7.5B acquisition of GitHub; The European Commission is slated to officially rule on the deal by Oct 19.

Vimeo announces support for holographic live streams; provides a guide with suggested depth cameras and streaming software; the volumetric video is viewable via Vimeo Live on any browser or AR headset.

Snap announces Snap Originals, a slate of exclusive shows and documentaries; includes “Class of Lies” and “V/H/S”; episodes run at roughly five minutes and will be published on Snapchat daily.

Singaporean taxi firm ComfortDelGro partners with Finland-based MaaS Global to launch a multi-transit subscription service; known as Whim, the yet-to-launch service will give users access to taxis, buses, trains, bikes, and more for a monthly fee.

NY’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority announces the Transit Tech Lab accelerator; targets tools that will predict subway delays and mitigate service disruptions, and solutions to move city buses more quickly and efficiently; 5.7M people use New York’s public transit system every weekday.


📚 Stuff to think about

Lessons from Coinbase’s wild ascent: 4 rules for scaling. The surge of interest in cryptocurrencies in 2017 put Coinbase on hypergrowth mode by surprise. Varun Srinivasan, now Director of Engineering at the company, explains how they managed to keep up with hypergrowth.

Mailchimp, a bootstrapped company that has 20M users and $600M in revenue. Here’s how it got there.

What’s it all for? Tech workers are growing more concerned about how the products they develop will ultimately be used.

We think we know what we want, but the truth is… Asking our customers what they want only gives us part of the story. How can we delight without asking?


👩‍🎓 Quote of the week

“When asked to make a choice, we often default to the most justifiable option — even when it’s not what we really want” — Charlotte Blank, Delighting without asking.

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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.