el producto #98 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

Youtube “free” movies, Echo+Skype, Google’s real-time store stock, Marketplace scorecards, The future building blocks of internet, Instagram fights fakes & more.

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

🎰 The week in figures

$72B - gross merchandise value from internet businesses reached by Southeast Asian companies for 2018. Up 37% YoY. A joint study by Google and Temasek predicts the region’s digital economy will exceed $240B by 2025; Lazada, Shopee, and Tokopedia credited with growing e-commerce, while Grab and Go-Jek are driving the popularity for ride-hailing services.

100 - ad-supported free films now offered by YouTube, including Hollywood productions like “The Terminator” and “Legally Blonde”.

+20% - stock declines seen by Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google/Alphabet in the last 12 months; Apple’s stock has dropped more than 20% since Oct 3.


📰 What’s going on

Amazon adds Skype support for Echo devices; Echo Show users can make and receive video and audio calls; all other Echos can make and receive voice calls; users can call their Skype contacts, or use SkypeOut to call cell phones and landlines.

Amazon is encouraging brick-and-mortar merchants to accept Amazon Pay; the company is focusing on businesses it doesn’t directly compete with such as restaurants and gas stations; the firm is offering a range of incentives including lower merchant fees and marketing.

Amazon begins expanded direct sales of Apple products; it does not include sales of Echo competitor HomePod; starting in January, Amazon marketplace sellers must become Apple Authorized Resellers to sell Apple products on the platform.

Google partners with inventory tracking startup NearSt to let UK consumers see the availability of products in local brick-and-mortar stores; search results will also show product prices and how close a store is; NearSt pulls real-time stock data from stores’ POS systems.

Google Assistant for iOS gets Shortcuts support; lets users activate Assistant via Siri; as with other Shortcuts actions, users record their own launch word.

Apple has cut production orders for its newest iPhone models due to lower-than-expected demand; the company has reduced iPhone XR orders by as much as a third; the decision to offer more models has also made it harder to anticipate component orders, which in-turn has frustrated suppliers and assembly firms.

Apple acquired AI software firm Silk Labs earlier this year; terms unknown; Silk Labs develops on-device AI for IoT devices; raised $4M to date.

Instagram says it will begin removing fake likes, comments, and follows; the company will use AI-powered moderation tools to target accounts that use third-party services to take automatic action on posts.

Microsoft plans to discontinue HockeyApp development service; the platform allows app developers to distribute beta versions and see crash reports and analytics; it will shut down Nov 16, 2019, replaced by Visual Studio App Center.

Researchers develop a method for reducing AI bias; the technique, created by a team from the MIT Computer Science AI Lab, involves incorporating more data from underrepresented groups to decrease AI bias without reducing predictive result accuracy.

MailChimp partners with Square to launch shoppable landing pages; the feature creates a new e-commerce option for online retailers; Square will charge users a flat processing fee.

BMW plans to launch a ride-hailing service in China next month; the company’s Mobility Service is the first foreign business to attain such a license in the country; Didi Chuxing currently claims 90% of China’s rides.

Dubai-based ride-hailing company Careem is working with investment bank Jeffries as an advisor for fundraising and other options; Careem is reportedly in talks with Uber for an M&A deal; Careem is Uber’s most significant competition in the region.


📚 Stuff to think about

The NFX Marketplace Scorecard. Great overview on the variables required for a marketplace to succeed. And an excellent job shaping them together into a scorecard.

Is “some” Google better than no Google? Alphabet chairman John Hennessy shares his concerns about Google returning to China; Hennessy notes the quandary is whether offering Chinese users a restricted search service is better than offering no product at all; he also acknowledges concerns over storing user data within China.

Why “many-model thinkers” make better decisions. Models, like humans, make mistakes because they fail to pay attention to relevant variables or interactions. Many-model thinking overcomes the failures of attention of any one model.

WeChat is helping China become a cashless society. Being the only operator behind the ‘Great Firewall’, WeChat has become a force to be reckoned with for western brands. WeChat has innovated text, voice, search, payments and even an national identification systems into one app, reaching over 1B monthly active users this month.

The end of the beginning, what are the fundamental building blocks of the future of software and internet? A presentation by Ben Evans given at a16z’s annual tech conference this November. The internet began as an open, ‘permissionless’, decentralized network, but then we got (and indeed needed) new centralised networks on top, and so we’ve spent a lot of the past decade talking about search and social. Machine learning and crypto give new and often decentralized, permissionless fundamental layers for looking at meaning, intent and preference, and for attaching value to those.


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