el producto #95 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness
Apple & Facebook Q3 results, Google’s redesigned Discover, Uber subscription and Eats for business, New Apple products and OS, Spotify’s watch App & more.
Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto!
🎰 The week in figures
$34B; IBM’s takeover of Red Hat represents the largest-ever software acquisition; the deal is also the third-largest tech deal to date, ranking behind Dell’s acquisition of EMC ($67B) and Avago’s purchase of Broadcom ($37B).
$25B, valuation target by China-based live-streaming app Kuaishou after current funding round; it was previously valued at $18B; claims 130M daily active users; raised $1.4B to date.
$8B, valuation by Coinbase after raising $300M Series E with participation from Y Combinator, A16Z, and others; the cryptocurrency exchange was valued at $1.6B when it raised $100M last year; raised $525M to date.
$200M; Grab raises $200M strategic investment from Booking Holdings; as part of the deal both companies will integrate some of their services.
📰 What’s going on
Google launches revamped Discover feed; the stream features personalized cards, YouTube carousels, sports scores, and other information based on users’ search history; users can fine-tune results according to preference.
Google partners with iRobot to use mapping data from the latter’s autonomous vacuums to improve smart home services; the Roomba i7+ creates home maps; the user can command the device to clean the kitchen via Google Assistant voice command; the data can also be used to automatically name connected devices, such as “bathroom light bulb”.
Google launches reCAPTCHA v3 API; promises to reduce the number of challenges presented to users; the system will also measure user engagement across a site’s pages to better identify potential attackers.
Google announces AI for Social Good: an initiative to apply artificial intelligence, both inside Google and within external programs, to projects working toward positive social impact; Google.org launched the AI Impact Challenge, offering up to $25M in grants for chosen companies.
Google updates its app development platform Firebase; adds ML Kit Face Contours, a tool for detecting detailed points on a user’s face; introduces paid enterprise-grade support, REST-based Firebase Management API, and more.
Google updates Gboard for iOS and Android with Emoji Minis: emoji-sized stickers generated via machine learning analysis of a user’s selfie; the user can customize each sticker by altering hair color, adding hats, etc.
WhatsApp confirms it will put ads within its Status feature; VP Chris Daniels says Status will be the “primary monetization mode” for the firm; WhatsApp founder Brian Acton says he left the company in part because of Facebook’s plan to introduce ads.
Spotify starts testing its Apple Watch app; Beta testers of the Spotify iOS app have started gaining access to the app, and the first version appears to be limited to just controlling playback for now.
Twitter begins testing a homescreen toggle allowing some iOS users to switch between latest and top tweets; the feature was previously available in settings only.
Twitter is considering removing the Like button as part of a broader initiative to foster healthy conversation; the like button influences tweet reach and can spark virility, for better or worse.
Apple unveils the new MacBook Air with 13.3-inch Retina display and Touch ID; 17% smaller than the last Air; also features thinner bezels; powered by an Intel i5 processor (8th generation — Coffee Lake); the $1.2k base model ships with 16GB RAM and 128GB storage; available for order.
Apple announces new MacBook Pros with optional AMD Radeon Pro Vega graphics; the upgrade, which will be limited to the 15-inch model, promises a 60% performance boost for video editing, 3D design, more; available to order on Nov 14, pricing undisclosed.
Apple announces a new Mac Mini with four- and six-core processor options and up to 64GB RAM; features T2 security chip, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and optional Ethernet; the base model with 3.6GHz i3, 8GB RAM, and 128GB storage runs $800; pre-orders now open, ships Nov 7.
Apple unveils the new iPad Pro with Face ID and no Home button; powered by the A12X Bionic chip with an 8-core CPU and 7-core GPU; also announced a new $130 Apple Pencil, which magnetically attaches to the side of the iPad for wireless charging; iPad pre-orders are now open at $800 for the 11-inch model and $1k for the 12.9-inch (base prices); available Nov 7.
Apple rolls out macOS Mojave 10.14.1 with support for Group FaceTime, new emojis, and more.
Apple launches watchOS 5.1 with audio support for Group FaceTime, 70 new emojis, and the Color analog watch face; the update is compatible with Series 1 through Series 4 Watches.
Apple updates its Shortcuts app with weather integration, improved iCloud sharing, new timer and alarm features, more; also enables triggering shortcuts via HomePod voice command.
Apple is testing a vintage device repair service; under the Repair Vintage Apple Products Pilot, Apple will repair devices previously considered obsolete and unsupported; subject to the availability of parts and in limited locations.
Security researchers uncover an iOS 12.1 security flaw that allows access to Contacts from the lockscreen; the exploit involves placing a call via Siri, then switching the call to FaceTime; utilizing the new Group FaceTime feature provide access to a users’ full address book.
Amazon launches the Alexa Presentation Language (APL) in beta; enables developers to create visually rich experiences for display-equipped Alexa devices; the skills will function in all Alexa locales, and are testable via the Alexa Developer Console; Amazon will soon begin certifying and publishing the skills in the Alexa Skills Store.
Amazon launches the Alexa Music Skill API in general availability; enables music services to stream to Alexa devices, with support for voice controls; works with multi-speaker setups and allows users to set tracks as alarms.
Expedia acquires hospitality startups Pillow and Apartment Jet; terms undisclosed; employees will join Expedia; the travel booking platform said the deal will facilitate urban growth opportunities.
Alibaba partners with Swiss luxury group Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA to enhance access to high-end brands for Chinese consumers; the Chinese e-commerce company will launch two new mobile shopping apps; the Swiss group will open new online stores in Alibaba’s Tmall Luxury Pavilion.
Flickr announces numerous changes, including decreased storage for free users; 1TB of free storage drew users who wanted free space rather than those where were interested in joining a community; now supports higher resolution images.
Snapchat launches 25 new Discover shows from UK-based partners; represents the first time Snap is working specifically with non-US firms; includes content from Sky News, The Guardian, Vice’s British operations, and others; content is available worldwide.
Uber announces $15-per-month subscription service Ride Pass; ensures discounted, flat rates for all UberX and UberPool rides; promises to save riders up to 15% each month; initially limited to Austin, Orlando, Denver, and Miami; available at $25 per month in Los Angeles.
Uber launches Eats for Business; enables workers to order food for delivery and bill it to their companies; administrators can restrict locations to which food is delivered, establish hours of order availability, and set per-meal expense limits; if an employee exceeds the allowance, the remaining balance is charged to the user’s personal account.
Uber is testing a Pro program, rewarding top performing drivers with increased pay and college tuition; drivers are ranked based on rider ratings and cancellation rates, then classified as gold, platinum, or diamond; drivers can also earn cash back for fuel expenses, maintenance discounts, more.
Waymo begins testing pricing models for autonomous vehicle rides in Phoenix; the self-driving startup purportedly plans to launch a commercial taxi service; it recently expanded its early rider pilot program, which allows a vetted group of people to hail a self-driving shuttle via an app.
Xiaomi sends Lyft a cease-and-desist notice, demanding the company stop using Xiaomi’s electric scooters and branding in advertisements and documentation; Xiaomi said it never authorized Lyft to modify Xiaomi scooters for general public use.
Ford and Baidu launch two-year project to test autonomous vehicles in China; will begin in limited areas of Beijing this year; the companies expect to reach Level 4 autonomy by the end of the program.
Volkswagen and Intel-owned Mobileye announce plans for an autonomous ride-hailing service in Israel next year; a small number of vehicles will initially be fitted with Mobileye’s AV kit; the companies aim to have hundreds of driverless EVs in service by 2022.
Autonomous delivery robot company Starship Technologies launches commercial delivery service in Milton Keynes, north of London; customers pay ~$10 per month for unlimited package deliveries.
The UK government is set to launch an Android app that will let EU citizens apply to remain in Britain after the Brexit process is complete; the app asks users three questions; they then upload a picture of themselves and scan their passport using the phone’s NFC chip; the iOS version will not support NFC scans meaning users will have to find an alternative method to complete their application; ~3.5M people are expected to apply for so-called settled status.
💸 Financial results Q3
Apple ($1.07T market cap) Q3 beats: $62.9B revenue, up 19.5% YoY ($61.4B expected); sold 46.9M iPhones (48.4M expected) projects $89B to $93B revenue for Q4.
Facebook ($422B market cap) Q3 mixed: $13.73B revenue ($13.78B expected); 1.49B DAU (1.51B expected); 2.27B MAU (2.29B expected); $6.09 average revenue per user, as expected.
Samsung ($266.5B market cap) Q3 meets; $57.4B revenue, up 5.5% YoY; ~$15.5B profit, up 21% YoY; Samsung expects a drop in revenue for Q4 due to a seasonal decline in semiconductors.
📚 Stuff to think about
Facebook voice challenges. Facebook tried and failed to develop its own voice assistant for Portal; Facebook purchased Mobile Technologies in 2013 and Wit.ai in 2014 to work on voice recognition tech; sources for Forbes claim product focus changed frequently and managers had unrealistic development timeframes; Portal ultimately launched with Alexa.
The unconventional businesses unlocked by food delivery apps. Uber Eats and other delivery apps are creating opportunities for virtual restaurants.
The red flags and magic numbers that investors look for in your startup’s metrics. The deck that Andrew Chen presented as part of his interview process at a16z, covering how to use growth ideas to evaluate startups.