Last week brought many changes in the world of technology, some expected and some unexpected. Google GOOGL changed its logo, Apple AAPL and Cisco CSCO announced a collaboration and Intel INTC finally launched the Skylake family. And these are just the top stories, so read on…
Google Goes Back to Basics with New Logo
In preparation for its new journey with Alphabet, Google also redesigned its logo to make it simpler, cleaner, mobile/adjusting and less data consuming. Google appears to be telling users that it will serve them as unobtrusively as possible and communicate as quickly as possible (dynamic dots rearrange themselves to indicate that Google is listening, thinking and replying, or even when there is incomprehension or confirmation).
The basic red-blue-green-yellow representation remains the same, although the shades have changed slightly, the quirky edges (serif lettering) have gone the figure-eight form of the second "g" has disappeared and the tilted "e" at the end signifying Google's off-kilter thinking has been retained. Google has managed to retain the basic look and feel while adding dynamism and further simplicity, which is no mean feat.
Back to School: Facebook, Microsoft, Google
Facebook : The social networking company is also getting into the classroom. Facebook FB , in collaboration with Summit Public Schools, has developed a tool called the Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) that focuses on self learning, or allowing K-12 students to learn at their own pace. Teachers will focus on guidance and students will determine their career paths by matching their coursework and assignments with their skillsets. Summit Schools specializes in online learning where teachers create course materials and prioritize projects and collaboration over lectures. Facebook is expected to ultimately make the tool available for free for all U.S. schools.
Microsoft : The company has several special offers for the season including OneNote Class Notebook and Staff Notebook facilitating the control of apps in the classroom, virtual trips with Skype for the schoolroom, digital story-telling app Sway, image and video linking and sharing through the Snip app, YouthSpark Hub for resources and programs to develop digital skills, Imagine tools to learn coding fundamentals, and an extension of free computer science courses by Microsoft's MSFT Virtual Academy.
Google : The search giant launched some helpful features for the classroom (also work) that will improve the experience of using docs and sheets on both mobile and desktop devices. For mobile, it has added the research feature for docs (basically the ability to search for information and insert it in the doc without leaving the app).
For desktops, it brought voice typing (or transcription of dictated messages) in 40 languages to Docs; to facilitate collaboration, it announced a feature called "see new changes," which highlights additions/alterations since your last view of a Doc; and for Sheets, it announced Explore, which upon clicking sets Google to automatically analyze the spreadsheet to develop charts that get automatically adjusted when you change the data set.
Apple, Dell and Adobe also have some offers.
Last 6 Months
Other stories you might have missed -
Mayer Effect on Yahoo : Yahoo YHOO CEO Marissa Mayer has announced that she will be giving birth to twin girls in December. This is her second pregnancy since she took the top job and this time too, she intends to "work throughout". Mayer has taken a businesslike approach to her personal life, taking less than the allowed leave the last time and reducing work-at-home opportunity for all employees soon after she joined Yahoo.
The approach hasn't helped investor sentiment, which has been hurt by even the limited number of leaves she will be required to take, especially in the face of Yahoo's still-struggling advertising business. Women employees in Yahoo and elsewhere won't be too happy about it either because most people don't have Mayer's financial means to make such an arrangement work and because it also sends a disturbing message to society that parenting is a secondary/less important responsibility.
Alibaba Founders Borrowing $2 Billion : According to media reports, Alibaba co-founders are using company stock as collateral to raise $2 billion as their asset values plunge with Alibaba share prices. It's expected that the stock will be used to fund Blue Pool Capital, a family-run wealth management operation in Hong Kong for Alibaba executives.
Twitter CEO Search : Twitter's CEO hunt continues with the company reaching out to former Cisco CTO Padmashree Warrior and former CEO of Ask.com Jim Lanzone (currently heading CBS Interactive), Bloomberg reports. But the company can't afford to rest on product development or monetization as interim CEO Jack Dorsey hasn't decided to continue (Twitter wants a full-time effort and Dorsey also heads Square, which will go public soon). So it has promoted head of app developers Jeff Seibert to oversee the consumer side of things, with SVP of product Kevin Weil retaining responsibility for strategic direction and monetization.
Wikipedia Traffic Declines : The encyclopedia that most of us refers to has seen a notable reduction in traffic since the beginning of the year, mostly because of the adoption of the HTTPS format, which is required by Google because it is more secure. This likely chopped off the bots that artificially inflate views, leading to a total reduction in traffic. Google referrals did however increase as a percentage of total views during the period.
Judge Approves Tech Giants' Settlement Offer : Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe (and other tech companies that have already settled) were sued by 64K current and former employees for anti-poaching arrangements with each other that restricted their ability to move and thereby reduced their bargaining power. The companies thereafter offered $325 million to settle the case, which was rejected by the judge. The subsequent offer of $415 million has been approved, finally settling the four-year old case.
Google Antitrust Trouble Brewing in India : India, where almost all web traffic originates on Google sites, is looking into the company's dominant position for signs of abuse. According to an initial investigation over three years and upon feedback from 30 companies including Flipkart, Facebook, Makemytrip.com and MapmyIndia.com, Google abuses its power by preferring its own services over competitors' even when they aren't as relevant, especially if these companies don't advertise with Google much.
The 714-page report and 4K pages of annexure have been submitted to the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and Google has until Sep 10 to submit a reply. The commission has said that it's a quasi-judicial affair that could take a very long time to resolve. It will likely take several years for several rounds of hearings and appeals and Google will have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court, India's top judicial authority.
Google Could Face Civil Lawsuits in EU : International law firm, Hausfeld and a European public affairs company Avisa are teaming up to help Google's adversaries in the EU antitrust case file civil lawsuits against Google for the recovery of damages. Google last week denied any wrongdoing after which competitors challenged it to a public hearing. If Google is found guilty, these companies will help the plaintiffs signing up for their services with information and advice.
Samsung Gets into Smart Homes : At the IFA International Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin, Samsung unveiled a starter kit for a connected home called Smart Things. The kit, which includes sensors, electrical sockets and a centralized hub connecting to the home's Internet router will go on sale this week in the U.S. and the U.K.
Microsoft XB1 Elite Bundle : Microsoft has announced the XB1 Elite Bundle, which includes a 1TB solid state hybrid drive and specialized controller. Frequently used files will be placed on the solid state partition, making for much higher speeds. As the Elite name indicates, this SKU is more pricey, retailing for $499. The controller alone costs $150.
Google's Nest Thermostat Upgrade : Google has announced the third generation of its Nest thermostat, a version that comes in a sleeker design and a 40% bigger screen with the ability to connect with other Nest devices including the smoke alarm and security camera as well as older versions of the device. All Nest devices can be controlled with a single mobile application. The device is priced at $249, a significant jump from the older version, which sold at $199.
Google Nexus Phones to Launch Soon : A smaller version from LG and a larger (phablet) version from Huawei will launch on Sep 29, to showcase Google's new OS called Marshmallow. Leaked information indicates that both phones will have a fingerprint reader at the back and slightly protruding cameras. Huawei may have been a much-considered selection since it can improve Google's standing in China. The company is already a popular Android device maker and as a partner for its flagship product, could help with the acceptance of Google's Play Store and services while helping to deal with competition from Apple's iPhone in the country.
Hulu Launches Ad-Free Streaming Service : Hulu just added an ad-free layer of video service for $11.99 a month (its ad-supported version goes for $7.99 a month). But this may not be the only reason rival Netflix saw its share prices dive. Alibaba also started rolling out a similar service in China, where Netflix hopes to launch shortly. Given Alibaba's reach and popularity in China, Netflix's growth prospects in the country appear to have suffered a setback. Alibaba first announced its intention to enter the space in June.
M&A and Collaborations
Microsoft-VMware Get Together : The alliance between Microsoft and VMware is another example of "frenemy" as collaboration makes more sense than competition in the increasingly shared world of cloud computing. VMware has now agreed to launch the necessary software for companies choosing to distribute and manage their applications using Microsoft's Windows 10. The fierce competitors in virtualization are making an exception in this case.
Microsoft Acquires Volometrix : the startup makes business analytics software that help large companies determine the productivity and efficiency of different teams especially with respect to profit, attrition and sales. This is therefore a natural fit with Microsoft's Office 365. The terms of acquisition aren't public, but Volometrix has raised 17 million to date and appears to be seeing rapid growth (the company intends to triple headcount from the 20 people it had last fall).
Google Has New Ally in Russia : Google has joined hands with Russia's biggest mobile phone operator MTS to promote Google voice search in its advertising campaigns and pre-install the app on the main screen of Android phones sold through its retail channels. Google will share the cost of advertising and also the ad revenues thus generated. Google has tough competition in Russia from local company Yandex, which promises similar services that are popular locally. In fact, Yandex is pre-installed on many phones in the country, including Android and Microsoft devices.
Amazon and Nintendo : Amazon and Nintendo have tied up for the sale of video game titles. Gamers will be able to buy a download code on Amazon and sign into the Nintendo network on Amazon itself. Entering the code there will send the game to their services. This may not be a big deal as yet because the downloadable market is relatively small and Amazon is a smaller player in the space. But it's a step in the right direction because there is an increasing level of comfort with the experience, especially since it allows you to play the game sooner.
AWS to Acquire Elemental : The software defined video solutions maker reformats video content originally made for transmission to through cable or other networks to TVs, making it suitable for delivery over IP networks to PCs, smartphones, tablets and TVs. The acquisition will therefore make AWS even more attractive for media companies looking to deliver content over the Internet.
Apple Music Stats from ComScore : The research firm says that 37.1 million people using iOS and Android devices accessed the Apple Music app in July, making it the second most popular music app after only Pandora. These are preliminary numbers and don't indicate actual usage because the app isn't available for Android yet.