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The New York Times Tech Roundup

October 29, 2016 Leave a comment

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The New York Times

For the latest updates, go to nytimes.com/technology »

The New York Times
Apple put out a new line of laptops, some of which included the Touch Bar.
Apple put out a new line of laptops, some of which included the Touch Bar. Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Farhad and Mike’s Week in Tech: Microsoft, Apple and Halloween!

Each Saturday, Farhad Manjoo and Mike Isaac, technology reporters at The New York Times, review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry.
Farhad: Hello, Mike! I hope we can make this a quick chat, as I’ve still got a lot of work to do on my Halloween costume. I’m going as Sexy Donald Trump.
Mike: That is truly terrifying. Speaking of which, I’m going as celebrity chef Guy Fieri. Do you have a bowling shirt with flames on it that I can borrow for the weekend?
Farhad: Oh yeah, I have many. I make so many trips to Flavor Town! On to the news. Let’s start with personal computers. Remember those?
Mike: Like the old Gateway 2000 we had growing up? My favorite thing about those computers was that they came in a box that was painted white and splotchy black like a cow. Because I definitely think of livestock while I’m computing.
Farhad: Yeah, well, apparently not only do personal computers still exist, but if you’ve got a lot of money to spend, they can be pretty awesome.
Take the Surface Studio, which Microsoft unveiled at a press conference in New York this week. It’s, get this, a desktop computer, a device that was first invented in the Jurassic period, I think. But still, it looked pretty sweet. The machine is basically a flat sheet of glass mounted on a hinge, allow creative professionals to use it as a traditional desktop or a large drafting table. Microsoft also showed off a really intriguing accessory for the Studio, a physical dial that you turn to perform very precise functions (like zooming) on the machine.
Mike: I could see that being pretty cool if I had artistic talent. Usually those folks like those big Wacom tablets, but this seems to have a different type of interface — drawing directly on the screen, for example — that could win that crowd over.
Farhad: Microsoft was widely ridiculed when it began building its own computers a few years ago (that first Surface was a stinker). But I have to say, they’ve really done wonders since then. This new Surface — which, alas, starts at $3,000 — was the most interesting computer design I’ve seen in a long time. And that includes the other company that showed off some new computers this week.
Can you guess which company that was?
Mike: Um, Gateway?
Farhad: No, I meant Apple. The Mac company put out a new line of laptops, including a couple of high-end machines that include something called the Touch Bar. It’s a little touch-screen mounted at the top of the keyboard that offers a range of controls that adapt to whatever software you’re using at the moment.
I tried it out at Apple’s press event this week, and in my short demo it looked quite handy, but it’s expensive. Mac machines with the Touch Bar start at $1,800.
Mike: I guess that’s cool. Everyone is criticizing it because you have to look down at the keyboard to use it instead of, say, typing on the buttons we have there now without looking down.
Am I crazy, or am I the only guy who still needs to look at the keyboard in the unlikely event I am required to press F8?
Farhad: Yeah, you’re crazy. Never press F8. Never.
O.K., let’s touch on some earnings reports, because I know you love those. After previously warning investors that it would soon start spending heavily to invest in its core business, Amazon reported that it had kept to its word and spent a lot of dough. But apparently investors weren’t expecting that, despite the company’s warning. So Amazon’s profits came in below analysts’ expectations, which sent the stock price slipping.
But here’s what I found interesting. Amazon, which is the most opaque large company in tech, told investors that it was expecting a remarkably wide range in business performance in the holiday quarter. Operating income could come in as high as $1.25 billion at the high end — or $0 at the low end. Who knows, right?
Basically Amazon is like one of those baked kids in “Dazed and Confused” contemplating the emptiness of it all: Like, hey, man, we could make a whole lot or we could make nothing, man, what does any of it matter on this pale blue dot out here in the middle of nothingness, you know what I mean, man?
Mike: I do, in fact, know what you mean. The philosophy of Matthew McConaughey guides many of my life choices, especially the character he played in that movie.
Anyway, I think at this point Amazon can tell investors whatever they want — “Profit? Who knows? Who cares?” — and Wall Street will eventually get in line and keep singing the company’s praises. Tech companies are good at not caring what analysts think.
Farhad: A couple of companies went on cost-cutting missions this week, though for totally different reasons. Alphabet, the holding company that Google created to manage its many non-search-related businesses, said that it was halting further expansion of its Google Fiber project. Fiber is a plan to build superfast fiber-optic internet access in cities across the country, a mission that has always seemed a little crazy in its expense and ambition. Now, citing a need for greater financial discipline, Google is going to lay off Fiber.
Please please don’t make a joke about digestion.
Mike: Whatever do you mean? I’m just happy to see Google is staying regular. Uh, in its ambitions.
In all seriousness, this is a bummer, because my Comcast connection at home is the definition of terrible and unreliable. No competition within markets makes me very sad, even if I do get to make a fiber joke.
Farhad: And then, finally, there was Twitter, which woke reporters up at 4 a.m. on the West Coast to deliver its financial results. The struggling social network said it would lay off 350 people and would essentially shut down Vine, the once-popular looping video app.
Man, I feel like I think about Twitter’s mortality more frequently than my own. Is there any good news this time?
Mike: Actually, yes! They added more new users than everyone expected, and while their revenue growth is in decline, it still beat analysts’ estimates.
Also, layoffs can be seen a few ways. It’s always painful and you can’t cheer when a company does it. Real people and their lives are affected by them. That being said, Twitter employs 3,900 people, and for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what most of them actually do all day. I’m not sure they could, either. So, perhaps this was something that was a long time coming, as many people around the company will grudgingly admit.
Anyway, they’re doing O.K., considering. The stock price went up, which is good, I guess. Too bad Vine is going away. I’ve spent the past few days watching hilarious and weird vines on my computer. I highly recommend it.
Farhad: I loved the idea of Vine, but I never really watched many. Guess that was the problem. Anyway, see you next week!
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How to Create a Video Sales Funnel With Social Media

October 28, 2016 Leave a comment

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Have you tried producing 360 video? Want to discover how to create immersive video to share your message? To find out how marketers can use 360 video, read this article featuring insights from Ryan Anderson Bell.

Mike Stelzner
Founder, Social Media Examiner

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Driverless Trucks are Coming!

October 28, 2016 Leave a comment

 

Self-Driving Trucks Are Going to Hit Us Like a Human-Driven Truck

The imminent need for basic income in recognition of our machine-driven future


Late last year, I took a road trip with my partner from our home in New Orleans, Louisiana to Orlando, Florida and as we drove by town after town, we got to talking about the potential effects self-driving vehicle technologywould have not only on truckers themselves, but on all the local economies dependent on trucker salaries. Once one starts wondering about this kind of one-two punch to America’s gut, one sees the prospects aren’t pretty.

We are facing the decimation of entire small town economies, a disruption the likes of which we haven’t seen since the construction of the interstate highway system itself bypassed entire towns. If you think this may be a bit of hyperbole… let me back up a bit and start with this:

Source: NPR

This is a map of the most common job in each US state in 2014.

It should be clear at a glance just how dependent the American economy is on truck drivers. According to the American Trucker Association, there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US, and an additional 5.2 million people employed within the truck-driving industry who don’t drive the trucks. That’s 8.7 million trucking-related jobs.

We can’t stop there though, because the incomes received by these 8.2 million people create the jobs of others. Those 3.5 million truck drivers driving all over the country stop regularly to eat, drink, rest, and sleep. Entire businesses have been built around serving their wants and needs. Think restaurants and motels as just two examples. So now we’re talking about millions more whose employment depends on the employment of truck drivers. But we still can’t even stop there.

Those working in these restaurants and motels along truck-driving routes are also consumers within their own local economies. Think about what a server spends her paycheck and tips on in her own community, and what a motel maid spends from her earnings into the same community. That spending creates other paychecks in turn. So now we’re not only talking about millions more who depend on those who depend on truck drivers, but we’re also talking about entire small town communities full of people who depend on all of the above in more rural areas. With any amount of reduced consumer spending, these local economies will shrink.

One further important detail to consider is that truck drivers are well-paid. They provide a middle class income of about $40,000 per year. That’s a higher income than just about half (46%) of all tax filers, including those of married households. They are also greatly comprised by those without college educations. Truck driving is just about the last job in the country to provide a solid middle class salary without requiring a post-secondary degree. Truckers are essentially the last remnant of an increasingly impoverished population once gainfully employed in manufacturing before those middle income jobs were mostly all shipped overseas.

If we now step back and look at the big national picture, we are potentially looking at well over 10 million American workers and their families whose incomes depend entirely or at least partially on the incomes of truck drivers, all of whom markedly comprise what is left of the American middle class.

So as long as the outlook for US trucking is rosy, we’re fine, right?

The Short-Term Job Outlook of the American Trucker

The trucking industry expects to see 21% more truck driving jobs by 2020. They also expect to see an increasing shortfall in drivers, with over 100,000 jobs open and unable to find drivers to fill them. Higher demand than supply of truckers also points to higher pay, so for at least the next five years, the future is looking great for truck drivers. The only thing that could put a damper on this would be if the demand for truck drivers were to say… drive off a sharp cliff.

That cliff is the self-driving truck.

The technology already exists to enable trucks to drive themselves. Google shocked the world when it announced its self-driving car it had already driven over 100,000 miles without accident. These cars have since driven over 1.7 million miles and have only been involved in 11 accidents, all caused by humans and not the computers. And this is mostly within metropolitan areas.

“And as you might expect, we see more accidents per mile driven on city streets than on freeways; we were hit 8 times in many fewer miles of city driving.” — Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car program

So according to Google’s experience, the greater danger lies within cities and not freeways, and driving between cities involves even fewer technological barriers than within them. Therefore, it’s probably pretty safe to say driverless freeway travel is even closer to our future horizon of driverless transportation. How much closer? It has already happened.

On May 6, 2015, the first self-driving truck hit the American road in the state of Nevada.

Self-driving trucks are no longer the future. They are the present. They’re here.

“AU 010.” License plates are rarely an object of attention, but this one’s special — the funky number is the giveaway. That’s why Daimler bigwig Wolfgang Bernhard and Nevada governor Brian Sandoval are sharing a stage, mugging for the phalanx of cameras, together holding the metal rectangle that will, in just a minute, be slapped onto the world’s first officially recognized self-driving truck.

According to Daimler, these trucks will be in a decade-long testing phase, racking up over a million miles before being deemed fit for adoption, but the technology isn’t even anything all that new. There’s no laser-radar or LIDAR like in Google’s self-driving car. It’s just ordinary radar and cameras. The hardware itself is already yesterday’s news. They’re just the first ones to throw them into a truck and allow truckers to sit back and enjoy the ride, while the truck itself does all the driving.

If the truck needs help, it’ll alert the driver. If the driver doesn’t respond, it’ll slowly pull over and wait for further instructions. This is nothing fancy. This is not a truck version of KITT from Knight Rider. This is just an example of a company and a state government getting out of the way of technology and letting it do what it was built to do — enable us to do more with less. In the case of self-driving trucks, one big improvement in particular is fewer accidents.

In 2012 in the US, 330,000 large trucks were involved in crashes that killed nearly 4,000 people, most of them in passenger cars. About 90 percent of those were caused by driver error.

That’s like one and a half 9/11s yearly. Human-driven trucks kill people.

Robot trucks will kill far fewer people, if any, because machines don’t get tired. Machines don’t get distracted. Machines don’t look at phones instead of the road. Machines don’t drink alcohol or do any kind of drugs or involve any number of things that somehow contribute to the total number of accidents every year involving trucks. For this same reasoning, pilots too are bound to be removed from airplanes.

Humans are dangerous behind the wheel of anything.

Robot trucks also don’t need salaries — salaries that stand to go up because fewer and fewer people want to be truckers. A company can buy a fleet of self-driving trucks and never pay another human salary for driving. The only costs will be upkeep of the machinery. No more need for health insurance either. Self-driving trucks will also never need to stop to rest, for any reason. Routes will take less time to complete.

All of this means the replacement of truckers is inevitable. It is not a matter of “if”, it’s only a matter of “when.” So the question then becomes, how long until millions of truckers are freshly unemployed and what happens to them and all the rest of us as a result?

The Long-Term Job Outlook of the American Trucker

First, let’s look at the potential time horizons for self-driving cars. Tesla intends to release a software update next month that will turn on “autopilot” mode, immediately allowing all Tesla Model S drivers to be driven between “San Francisco and Seattle without the driver doing anything”, in Elon Musk’s own words. The cars actually already have the technology to even drive from “parking lot to parking lot”, but that ability will remain unactivated by software.

Tesla-driven humans won’t be able to legally let their cars do all the driving, but who are we kidding? There will be Teslas driving themselves, saving lives in the process, and governments will need to catch up to make that driving legal. This process is already here in 2015. So when will the process end? When will self-driving cars conquer our roads?

Source: Morgan Stanley

According to Morgan Stanley, complete autonomous capability will be here by 2022, followed by massive market penetration by 2026 and the cars we know and love today then entirely extinct in another 20 years thereafter.

Granted, this is only one estimate of many and it’s all educated guesswork. So here are some other estimates:

Take all of these estimates together, and we’re looking at a window of massive disruption starting somewhere between2020 and 2030.

There is no turning the wheel in prevention of driving off this cliff either. Capitalism itself has the wheel now, and what the market wants, the market gets. Competition will make sure of it. Tesla and Google are not the only companies looking to develop autonomous vehicles. There are others.

A company named Veeo Systems is developing vehicles as small as 2-seaters to as large as 70-seat buses, and will be testing them in 30 US cities by the end of 2016.

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Self-Driving Truck’s First Mission: A 120-Mile Beer Run

October 26, 2016 Leave a comment
Photo

An Otto truck on a San Francisco street in May. Credit Ramin Rahimian for The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — The futurists of Silicon Valley may not have seen this one coming: The first commercial delivery made by a self-driving truck was 2,000 cases of Budweiser beer.

On Tuesday, Otto, the Uber-owned self-driving vehicle operation, announced the completion of its first commercial delivery, having delivered its beer load from Fort Collins, Colo., to Colorado Springs, a roughly 120-mile trip on Interstate 25.

In recent years, Uber has predicted a future in which you can ride in a self-driving car that will take you where you want to go, no driver necessary. But the idea that commercial trucking could be done by robot is a relatively new idea — and a potentially controversial one, given the possibility that robots could one day replace human drivers.

“We think this technology is inching closer to commercial availability,” Lior Ron, co-founder of Otto, said in an interview.

In August, Uber acquired Otto, a San Francisco start-up run by a number of veterans of Google’s long-running autonomous vehicle research.

Though largely symbolic, the beer delivery marks the first commercial partnership for Otto, which was founded less than a year ago. Terms of the deal between Otto and Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns the Budweiser brand, were not disclosed.

“We’ve tested with trailers, of course, but there’s nothing like actually doing the real thing, end to end,” Mr. Ron said.

Photo

An Otto truck on the road, with the driver’s seat empty. Although a driver was at hand, no intervention was needed.

The delivery was indicative of Uber’s larger ambitions to become an enormous transportation network, one in which the company is responsible for moving anything, like people, hot meals or cases of beer, around the globe, at all hours and as efficiently as possible. Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, has said he envisions a future in which transportation will occur in different ways, using both manned and unmanned vehicles.

Otto is a particularly large bet for Uber, which paid nearly $700 million for the start-up only a few months after the company started publicly discussing its self-driving-truck ambitions.

Since backing down from its money-burning effort to dominate the Chinese ride-hailing market in August, Uber has invested more time and resources to focus on breaking into the trucking market. Annual trucking industry revenue topped $720 billion in 2015, according to American Trucking Association estimates.

A good part of that total came from top brands that rely heavily on the trucking industry to transport their goods. Anheuser-Busch, for example, delivers more than a million truckloads of beer domestically every year.

“We view self-driving trucks as the future, and we want to be a part of that,” said James Sembrot, senior director of logistics strategy at Anheuser-Busch. Though the delivery went smoothly, the two companies did not indicate whether there would be any further deals.

For this initial delivery, Otto’s truck departed Anheuser-Busch’s facility in Loveland, Colo., in the early morning before reaching the interstate in Fort Collins. The truck drove through Denver — alongside regular passenger car traffic — and navigated to its destination in Colorado Springs without incident.

Otto said a trained driver was in the cabin of the truck at all times to monitor the vehicle’s progress and take over if necessary. At no point was the driver required to intervene, the company said.

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CRM Strengthens Data-Driven Marketing

October 26, 2016 Leave a comment

CRM Strengthens Data-Driven Marketing

38% of respondents said they use real-time data from analytics

October 26, 2016

Digital marketers in North America and Western Europe are using different tactics to augment their data-driven marketing efforts. According to research, most use customer relationship management (CRM) data to help them better understand a customer’s profile.

Methods Used by Digital Marketers in North America and Western Europe* to Augment Data-Driven Marketing, June 2016 (% of respondents)

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Adobe surveyed 735 digital marketers from a variety of industries in Canada, France, Germany, the UK and the US. All respondents were from companies with more than 500 employees.

In addition to using CRM data, which two-thirds respondents said they used to augment data-driven marketing, nearly half of digital marketers in North America and Western Europe said they use audience definition, which is advanced segmentation.

Some 40% of respondents said they integrate analytics across channels, and almost as many respondents said they use real-time data from analytics.

Change in Revenues Generated by Data-Driven Marketing Activity According to US Marketing Professionals, Q2 2015* & Q3 2015** (% of respondents)

Generally, marketers are more optimistic about revenues from data-driven marketing, and are expanding their focus on customer acquisition and retention. Separate data from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and Winterberry Group found revenues generated by data-driven marketing grew for 45.7% of US marketers between Q1 and Q2 2015, with 9.0% saying they grew significantly.

What’s more, respondents thought data-driven marketing would be even better for the bottom line in the future. When the DMA asked about expected changes in such revenues between Q2 and Q3, a majority of respondents (54.3%) said their organization’s revenues from data-driven marketing would go up. The share expecting significant increases also rose, to 11.0%.

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Reebok To Open Innovative Footwear Factory In US

October 25, 2016 Leave a comment

 

Footwear and apparel company Reebok plans to take advantage of a new manufacturing process to open a shoe factory in the U.S. next year.

Company officials on Thursday detailed Liquid Factory, which uses robotics and software to effectively draw new shoes from scratch.

The process relies on a technique called 3D Drawing, which draws shoes in three-dimensional layers with a proprietary liquid material created by German chemical giant BASF.

Reebok said that the process is faster and cheaper than both conventional shoe manufacturing and 3D printing, which rival shoe makers have dabbled in.

Liquid Factory also provides a fit that stretches and molds around the foot and an outsole than performs “dramatically better than a typical rubber outsole.”

“Every shoe, from every brand is created using molds — an expensive, time-consuming process,” said Bill McInnis, who leads the Reebok Future team. “With Liquid Factory, we wanted to fundamentally change the way that shoes are made, creating a new method to manufacture shoes without molds.”

In addition, Reebok said it plans to open a Liquid Factory manufacturing lab early next year in partnership with footwear foam and gel producer AF Group.

Fortune reports that the facility will be located in the U.S., while Reebok noted that the Reebok Liquid Speed — the system’s first concept shoe — was designed and assembled in the U.S.

Three hundred pairs of the limited edition Liquid Speed are available for $189.50.

Adidas, Reebok’s parent company, plans to open its own high-tech footwear factory in the U.S. next year.

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Today’s FierceRetail Rundown

October 25, 2016 Leave a comment
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  1. Amazon Prime growth slows
  2. Chicago Cubs World Series could break retail records
  3. Nation’s largest malls to open on Thanksgiving
  4. QVC to launch new channel, Beauty iQ
  5. Alibaba hosts 8-hour fashion show
  6. Should Kroger go after Whole Foods?
  7. Dick’s wins $70M bid for Golfsmith
  8. REI to close Black Friday and grow #OptOutside

Featured Story

Amazon Prime growth slows

October 25, 2016 | By Laura Heller

There are some 65 million Amazon Prime members in the United States, an increase of 38 percent in just one year, according to a new report.

Top Stories

Chicago Cubs World Series could break retail records

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The World Series is always a big event in sports, but this year it promises to be a big retail event, thanks to the long-absent Chicago Cubs.

Nation’s largest malls to open on Thanksgiving

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The two largest mall owners are bucking the recent trend to close on Thanksgiving Day. Both Simon Property Management and GGP, which owns the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas, anticipate tenant merchants to open that day.

QVC to launch new channel, Beauty iQ

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

QVC is going after a larger share of the red-hot beauty category and plans to launch a TV network devoted to related products and topics.

Alibaba hosts 8-hour fashion show

Monday, October 24, 2016

Alibaba hosted an eight-hour fashion show as part of its run-up to Singles Day on Nov. 11 and announced new programs designed to drive traffic and sales.

Should Kroger go after Whole Foods?

Monday, October 24, 2016

The business press headlines blew up earlier this month over an analyst’s tweet that Kroger might be looking to acquire Whole Foods. The tweet was speculative – both companies refused to comment – as were all the articles that followed, but there are reasons that one could give to either fan the flames of this story or douse them.

Dick’s wins $70M bid for Golfsmith

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dick’s Sporting Goods has won a bankruptcy auction bid for the assets of Golfsmith for roughly $70 million.

REI to close Black Friday and grow #OptOutside

Monday, October 24, 2016

REI will once again close on Black Friday and encourage shoppers to #OptOutside instead. The move last year was so successful for the outdoor co-operative that it now boasts a national movement of more than 275 organizations that have been inspired to do the same.

News of Note

Amazon debuts new cloud service Silicon Angle

REI CEO shames Macy’s for early opening Business Insider

Brands get ready for Gen Z Fortune

Teavana’s new store design Chain Store Age

Under Armour tumbles Bloomberg

And Finally… The Trump brand losing favor with wealthy consumers CNBC

October 25, 2016

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