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The prevailing narrative is rightly that Amazon is taking on all comers and winning when it comes to share of retail and especially share of growth in e-commerce. That trend is undeniable. But it’s interesting to read about TJ Maxx and Marshalls apparently being somewhat immune to these trends.
Disney-ABC to Produce Snapchat Original Series | Variety (Dec 21, 2016)
One of the biggest challenges facing Snap as it approaches an IPO is providing advertisers with the products and tools they need to make markedly bigger investments on the platform. Getting more professionally produced video content onboard is one way to go about that, and I’m betting this won’t be the last of these deals.
Alphabet and Amazon continue to be the highest-profile examples of US companies seeking to minimize their overseas tax burdens, and of course the EU has already taken action against Apple in this regard. A US tax holiday in 2017 could start to change this narrative, but until then it’s likely to continue to draw unwanted attention.
Super Mario Run breaks records with 40 million downloads in its first 4 days | TechCrunch (Dec 21, 2016)
The numbers are huge, as expected – that’s a lot of downloads, but it’s worth remembering that this was a free download of a game with lots of nostalgia value. Unlike Pokemon Go, this year’s other big Nintendo-backed mobile game, Super Mario Run has eschewed the standard IAP business model, and reviews have been terrible as a result. What really matters is paying users and regular users after the initial hype dies down.
Apple V. Google A ‘Stable Duopoly’ in the U.S., Says Stifel – Tech Trader Daily – Barrons.com (Dec 21, 2016)
Interesting data here on purchasing patterns for smartphones in the US – obviously iOS and Android dominate, but it’s notable that Google Pixel buyers are mostly coming from the Android, not iPhone, base. The Pixel launch certainly seems to have been a success, but that’s been bad news for other Android vendors, not Apple, so far.
Nvidia has been one of the great chip success stories of the last couple of years, coming at the market from a new angle and outperforming competitors including Intel in emerging opportunities like autonomous driving. This is a great summary of that strategy and trajectory.
This is definitely part of the Twitter is Stuck narrative, one that I have argued for myself. Twitter seems unable to retain senior executives, and late 2016 saw a real exodus from management ranks. I suspect 2017 will make or break Jack Dorsey as CEO – the paradox here is that he seems to want to control product, but is also running two companies at once, leaving him unable to dedicate enough time to the project while also squeezing out those who could devote the appropriate resources to the job.
Apple is losing focus again — with no Steve Jobs coming to the rescue – Business Insider (Dec 20, 2016)
This is one of the most enduring narratives about Apple – that it’s somehow lost its way and is heading for a repeat of the late 1990s. These pieces are often so overblown that they’re hard to take seriously, but the drumbeat does seem to be getting louder lately. Apple always struggles most to control the narrative when it doesn’t have big, exciting, new products to shout about, and it feels like we’re in one of those periods right now.
A report from the White House on artificial intelligence and how it will affect the economy in years to come. The impact of AI on the economy and people’s lives is certainly an emerging narrative, but one where there’s very little consensus so far.
The Tesla Advantage: 1.3 Billion Miles of Data – Bloomberg (Dec 20, 2016)
This is a huge oversimplification – Tesla’s cars aren’t entirely autonomous, and mostly use their limited autonomy on highways, whereas truly autonomous vehicles need to learn how to drive in far more complex urban environments. But having production cars actively using the technology certainly helps Tesla.
Teaching a Machine to Steer a Car – Udacity Inc – Medium (Dec 20, 2016)
This has been a fascinating experiment – online coding course provider Udacity partnered with Google (now Waymo) to allow coders to remotely control self-driving cars. The results are now in. The experiment is just that, but highlights both the possibilities and some of the risks of future code-driven cars.
This is good context for a couple of different narratives – fake news and Facebook’s enormous power as a filter for news and other content. This is survey data on where people get their news from, and it shows that Facebook is the main online news source, with 32% of respondents saying they use it (Google News is next, at 21%). Some 18% of users only use one source of information, and for half of those it’s Facebook, whereas the majority do use multiple sources. And lots of people still use newspapers and TV for information too.
Amazon is outgrowing the US delivery infrastructure, especially when it comes to Christmas sales, and so is making increasing investments in its own logistics operation beyond warehouses and fulfillment centers. The challenge here is the difference between average daily load and peak load at busy times, but Amazon seems willing to invest for the peak.
Uber may have long since outgrown the startup label, but its financial state continues to suggest its aptitude. Its loss-leading strategy to win market share doesn’t seem to have fazed repeated rounds of investors, but continues to generate headlines. The big question remains whether there’s a path to profitability anytime soon here, in well-established individual markets at least.
see also Bloomberg
The alleged privacy violations at issue here aren’t new, but the threat of formal action over them is. But of course this also taps into the long-running narrative about advertising and privacy and Google’s role in particular. Whether you care or not depends on your overall view of the tradeoffs between business models and privacy, though awareness of (and to some extent concern over) these is rising.
Angry Amazon pilots are warning last-minute shoppers that holiday deliveries may be late – Recode (Dec 19, 2016)
This piece highlights two things – Amazon’s ongoing challenges with ensuring that its deliveries arrive on time, and the complexities of getting deeper into logistics with flying its own planes. Anecdotally, I saw several packages from Amazon delayed by one or more days in early December, so the existing system clearly is feeling the strain.
I disagree with the second statement in this headline, and would want to qualify the first too, but this headline fits perfectly in our Voice and Assistants narrative, which has more analysis on why. Simply put, the insistence that Amazon somehow owns voice because it has an effective voice device in the home is overblown, and voice itself will be only one of many ways we’ll interact with our devices.
Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber say they won’t help Trump build a registry of Muslim-Americans – Recode (Dec 17, 2016)
There’s growing consensus on this point now among the major tech companies, and thankfully little new noise from the Trump transition team about putting this particular campaign promise into action. Of course, that’s not to say it will never happen, or that the administration couldn’t build the registry itself, but it’s good to see tech companies showing some backbone on this point at least.
Uber plans to keep its self-driving cars on San Francisco roads despite DMV’s demand to stop – Recode (Dec 16, 2016)
This story has been characteristic of Uber’s disregard for regulations, which in the past have mostly been designed to protect the taxi lobby, but with self-driving cars moves into the realm of protecting drivers, passengers, and other road users. I suspect Uber will get a lot less sympathy from its users over these issues, and this approach will eventually backfire.
The latest incident from Facebook relates to Comscore tracking of iPhone usage, and comes a week after Facebook’s last disclosure of errors. All this continues to pile pressure on Facebook to engage more outside auditors in order to regain confidence in its metrics.