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Monthly Archives: May 2019

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The Google Pixel is one of the best Android phones you can buy — here’s where you can get one

Category : entrepreneur

You’ve only got a small handful of options for buying a Google Pixel, although on the bright side, you won’t have to spend a ton of time sifting through retailers to find the best deal. You can order it directly from the Google Store and Verizon — these are often the best places to find deals.

Verizon often has trade-in and “buy one, get one” offers that can save you a bundle of cash. The only downside is that your new phone will be locked to that carrier, so you’ll have to stick with Verizon while you own the phone.

Best Buy also offers Pixel phones locked to Verizon or Sprint, though, often with discounts attached if you sign on with the carrier at the time of purchase.

If your carrier isn’t Verizon and you don’t want to switch, you can buy the Pixel phone unlocked from a variety of retailers, including Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy. If you’re on T-Mobile, Sprint, or AT&T, this is a great way to buy the Pixel phone.

If you’re buying unlocked, Amazon and Walmart are good choices for saving a bit of money off retail pricing if there aren’t any other good deals to be had elsewhere and you don’t want to wait for a sale. These two retailers also occasionally have sales on Pixel phones.

Editor’s note: Some of the prices below, particularly carrier offers, do not factor in ongoing promotions or other special sales that come and go fairly frequently. Prices from retailers like Amazon also fluctuate regularly. Be sure to check and see what trade-in discounts, BOGO deals, and other savings might be on offer right now.

Google Pixel 3

  • Google: Unlocked for $799 (64GB), $899 (128GB)
  • Google Fi: Unlocked for $799 (64GB), $899 (128GB)
  • Verizon: Locked to Verizon for $800 (64GB), $900 (128GB)
  • Amazon: Unlocked for $699-$729 (64GB), $860 (128GB)
  • Best Buy: Unlocked for $700 (64GB), $800 (128GB)

Google Pixel 3 XL

  • Google: Unlocked for $899 (64GB), $999 (128GB)
  • Google Fi: Unlocked for $899 (64GB), $999 (128GB)
  • Verizon: Locked to Verizon for $930 (64GB), $1,030 (128GB)
  • Amazon: Unlocked for $689-$720 (64GB), $865-$880 (128GB)
  • Best Buy: Unlocked for $800 (64GB), $900 (128GB)

Google Pixel 3a

  • Amazon: Unlocked for $399 (64GB)
  • Google: Unlocked for $399 (64GB)
  • Google Fi: Unlocked for $399 (64GB)
  • Verizon: Locked to Verizon for $400 (64GB)
  • Walmart ( Black, White): Unlocked for $399 (64GB)
  • Best Buy: Unlocked for $300-$400 (64GB)

Google Pixel 3a XL

  • Amazon: Unlocked for $479 (64GB)
  • Google: Unlocked for $479 (64GB)
  • Google Fi: Unlocked for $479 (64GB)
  • Verizon: Locked to Verizon for $480 (64GB)
  • Walmart ( Black, White): Unlocked for $479 (64GB)
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3 tech execs who tried to create new smartphone and PC operating systems explain why Huawei’s plan to build an Android replacement will be almost impossible (AAPL, GOOGL, FB)

Category : entrepreneur

Huawei’s plan to replace Google’s Android with its own homegrown operating system may well prove to be mission impossible.

Building the software itself likely won’t prove all that difficult, say former executives who have experience with alternative operating systems. The real trouble Huawei will face will be in trying to replicate the kinds of apps, services, and ecosystem that Google’s version of Android offers, they say.

“It’s is extremely challenging,” said Andreas Gal, the former chief technology officer at Mozilla, who helped lead the development of the organization’s Firefox OS.

Huawei acknowledged earlier this month that it is speeding up efforts to develop its own smartphone operating system and app store. The move came in response to the Trump administration’s attacks on the company.

The administration has accused the Chinese electronics maker of stealing the trade secrets of American companies. It’s also has said that Huawei’s equipment represents a security threat because of the company’s allegedly close ties to the Chinese government.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration issued an order barring American companies from supplying Huawei with their products and services without US government approval. In response to that directive, Google announced that it would be cutting the Chinese electronics maker off from its version of Android and from the apps it ships with it. Although, Google and the US government have since given the company a temporary reprieve.

Huawei is only the latest company to try to develop an upstart smartphone or computer operating system. In the 1980s and 1990s, companies such as Commodore, Be, and Next — as well as a programmer named Linus Torvalds — worked on PC operating systems to try to crack into the market dominated by Microsoft. More recently, companies such as BlackBerry, Palm, Microsoft, and Mozilla have tried to establish alternatives to Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.

Apps will be the big challenge

Building an operating system or even developing some basic apps likely won’t prove much of a challenge for Huawei, the former executives said. There are numerous variants of the open-source Linux operating system around — including the basic version of Android — that it could use as a foundation for its new platform, said Jean-Louis Gassée, a longtime tech industry executive and investor. Because of Huawei’s size and its access to a huge talent pool of Chinese developers, he said it likely wouldn’t take the company too long to develop what he calls a “minimum viable product” that it could use in its smartphones.

Andreas Gal helped lead Mozilla’s effort to build Firefox OS.
Wikimedia Commons/Mozilla

“Definitely they could reach that stage without straining,” said Gassée, who as CEO of Be Inc. in the 1990s, led an effort to create a PC operating system that would rival Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac OS.

A much more difficult challenge will be in trying to put together an app store that can offer a collection that can match what consumers can find on phones with access to standard Android, the former executives said. Google’s move to block Huawei from using its version of Android means that the company won’t have access to the search giant’s popular Google Play store or any of Google’s own apps. That’s a big problem for Huawei, because the Google search, YouTube, Gmail, and Google Maps apps are among the most popular ones on Android devices. Without access to Google’s apps, “they haven’t got a chance,” said one former mobile industry executive who asked not to be named.

And Google’s apps likely wouldn’t be the only holes in Huawei’s store. Many of the most popular apps other than Google’s are made by American companies or Western countries, which are also likely to avoid doing business with Huawei. Even if they weren’t scared off by Trump’s ban, many likely wouldn’t be interested in customizing their apps for Huawei’s operating system until it had tens of millions of users, said Gal, now a technologist with Apple.

That’s where Firefox OS really struggled, he said. Because the software had few users, Mozilla couldn’t convince developers to port their apps to it, he said. And without those apps, it had a tough time attractive users.

“That’s where we struggled the most,” Gal said. He continued: “It’s a Catch 22 situation.”

Huawei could develop its own apps

Huawei could build or hire developers to create versions of Google or Facebook’s apps, Gassée said. Amazon’s Fire tablets don’t have access to Google’s official apps, because they run Amazon’s own variant of Android. But consumers can still find apps within Amazon’s store that will allow them to access Gmail or YouTube.

Similarly, on PCs consumers can access all kinds of services even if they don’t have an app for them just by using a web browser, he said.

Jean-Louis Gassée led the effort to develop Be OS in the 1990s.
YouTube/FranceinSF

On a PC, “You have very nice access to Google’s services without Google’s permission” in the form of a dedicated app, Gassée explained.

But many of Google’s apps incorporate features that aren’t available to developers outside of Google, so third-party versions wouldn’t necessarily be able to offer a comparable experience, Gal said. Additionally, Huawei might face legal trouble if it tried to offer a homespun YouTube or Gmail app. YouTube and Gmail are trademarked, which means Huawei and its developers couldn’t mention the services in the names of their apps without Google’s permission, he said.

“You can’t just take the YouTube icon and put it on a phone,” he said.

But Huawei faces an additional challenge, Gal said. Many of the services consumers tap into on their smartphones were built using immense amounts of data.

Services built on big data could be a big problem for Huawei

Take location services. When smartphones are figuring out where they are, they frequently look for nearby Wi-Fi routers and cell phone towers and compare what they find with what they have in a database of known locations of such radios. Compiling and maintaining a worldwide database of those radio locations is an immense and time-consuming task, Gal said, one that only a handful of companies has taken on.

Similarly, offering turn-by-turn directions that take into account current traffic information, requires a huge amount of up-to-date data. While there are open-source and other efforts to offer similar information, they tend not to be as good in part because they’re not being used as widely, Gal said.

To offer a mapping service comparable to Google Maps that’s useful globally, Huawei would likely be forced to build it from scratch.

And Huawei would face similar problems with other services, Gal said. The camera apps that ship with iPhones and with standard Android phones are able to produce stunning pictures in part due to software. That software was tuned to produce such great photographs through the use of artificial intelligence models that studied millions of images, he said. To create a similar app to the one that ships free with Android, Huawei would have to recreate that process all by itself, he said.

“It’s a daunting problem,” Gal said.

Outside of China, Huawei could be stymied

Gassée is more optimistic about Huawei’s chances. The company is smart, well-funded, determined, and ambitious, he said. As the second biggest smartphone maker, it also already has millions of users to which it could market its new operating system.

But even he notes that building a successful operating system will likely require plenty of time and money.

“It could be difficult,” he said.

Huawei’s best bet outside of China may be in developing countries. Smartphone penetration tends to be lower in such countries, and the price of the phones often matters more than the services they offer. Huawei’s operating system could find some traction in such countries, at least in the short term, the executives said.

Read this: A longtime industry expert explains why Trump’s attack on Huawei could end up hurting Google and other US tech giants

“But in the rest of the world, no way,” said the former mobile industry executive. “I think it’s really hard … because of the app ecosystem,” he continued.

Got a tip about Huawei or the tech industry? Contact this reporter via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

  • Read more about Huawei and the trade war:
  • China is reportedly on the brink of ‘major retaliative measures’ against the US as the trade war escalates further
  • Stocks plunge after China hints it could unleash a ‘powerful’ trade war weapon by limiting US rare-earth supply
  • Huawei’s US head of security hints that the company would be open to working with the US government to ease its concerns over cybersecurity
  • Huawei: Blacklisting us could put tens of thousands of Americans out of work

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This VC and his firm don’t focus on particular technologies or sectors. Instead, they look for startups with a kind of network potential. Here’s why.

Category : entrepreneur

Pete Flint and his partners aren’t like many of their peers.

Many venture-capital firms focus on particular technologies or industries, like artificial intelligence or healthcare. Flint and his team at NFX concentrate instead of finding businesses built to take advantage of network effects.

Network effects are what happens when a company’s service or technology becomes more useful — and potentially dominant — the more people use it. Think Facebook in social networking; the more people that are on Facebook and using it, the more likely they are to find people they know or posts they want to read.

“Our core thesis as a fund is about investing in network-effect companies,” Flint said in a interview this week with Business Insider.

The firm itself has some experience at this. It’s been around for four years. It started off as an accelerator, investing relatively small amounts in nascent companies and trying to help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. It then moved into more traditional venture investing, raising $150 million for a seed-stage fund that allowed it to make bigger investments. Among the companies it’s backed are Lyft, community site Hometalk, real-estate service Ribbon, and disease-detection company Mammoth Biosciences.

NFX is going to be placing many more bets on network effects in the near future. The firm announced last week that it raised $275 million for its second fund, which it says is one of the largest ever for seed-round investing. NFX plans to use that to invest in about 50 early-stage startups, with room left over in the fund for follow-on investments.

“Our mission, really, is to find the next generation of these network-effect businesses,” Flint said.

Flint and his partners have experience with network effects

Flint knows first-hand the power of network effects. He was a founder of Trulia, an online real estate site that brought together people in the market for housing and those looking to rent or sell their properties. Like any so-called two-sided market, Trulia became more useful as more buyers and sellers, renters and landlords used it. The company was ultimately acquired by Zillow in 2015 for $2.5 billion.

His partners have also had experience with network effects. James Currier founded Tickle, a proto-social networking site that focused on personality tests and built up an audience of millions of users before being acquired by Monster, the popular career site. Gigi Levy-Weiss served as CEO of 888 Holdings, the operator of a collection of popular online gambling sites.

But Flint and his team have more than personal experience and hunches to go on, when it comes to the power of network effects. Their research indicates that some 70% of the value in technology companies as a whole has gone to those that have such a phenomenon at their center, he said. Meanwhile, many of the biggest initial public offerings this year have been of companies that benefit from network effects, he said, highlighting Uber, Lyft, Pinterest, and Zoom.

NFX’s focus on network effects “is born out from empirical research, as well as from just our own operating and founding experience,” Flint said.

Read this: VC investor explains how he finds surprising startups by focusing on the founders’ opinions instead of their initial product idea

NFX looks for ‘interesting’ markets and teams

Part of what he and his team like about such companies is that, by their nature, they tend to be efficient with capital. In many cases, they can grow without having to spend a lot of money on marketing and branding; potential customers find out about them by word-of-mouth.

What’s also attractive about them is that they can weather economic downturns better than other companies and often emerge stronger afterword, he said. That was the case with Facebook and the Great Recession and Google with the dot-com bust, he said.

“Fundamentally, we love the nature of these network-effect businesses,” Flint said. He continued: “We fundamentally can see opportunity in a recession for our companies to take market share.”

Of course, it can be easy to see once companies develop which ones benefit from network effects. It can be a much more difficult when startups are earlier in their life cycle. And that’s the challenge that faces Flint and NFX. The firm invests in nascent companies, ones that range from little more than an idea to a few million dollars in revenue.

But even there Flint and his team are open. They’ll invest both in companies that have a clear network effect opportunity and in ones that are seeking help finding one.

In trying to pick which ones to fund, they look for “really interesting markets, really interesting teams that have identified a unique need or identified a unique way to scale that business,” he said.

Got a tip about the venture capital or tech industries? Contact this reporter via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people come out on the internet first, study finds

Category : entrepreneur

Members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to first come out online before formally coming out to friends and family members, according to a recent study.

The research study, conducted by dating app Tinder, found that 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people are coming out online, whether that’s in a video on YouTube or a post on Twitter. Ahead of Pride Month in June, Tinder surveyed 1,000 members of the LGBTQ community who use the dating app and asked them about their experiences coming out, being out, and having queer relationships.

Read more: The Democratic presidential candidates will have a debate about LGBTQ rights. Here’s what all 15 have said about the issues.

The results of the study show just how integral of a role social media plays for those in the LGBTQ+ community. While coming out in person can be nerve-wracking when you’re unsure how friends and family will react, coming out online offers a place to trial-run the conversation.

For Gen Z, a generation that identifies more as LGBTQ+ than any other previous age group, social media can be a way to spread word of an LGBTQ+ identity and avoid having to have that scary coming out conversation over and over again. An overwhelming amount of Gen Z respondents in Tinder’s survery — 75% — came out on an online platform or closed group first before coming out to their friends or family.

Across social media, coming out announcements have become a form of art for the internet-reliant generation. As Wired’s Justice Namaste wrote in 2018, the coming out video “has shifted from simple, personal testimonials to also produced videos that are created for the consumption of an online audience.”

“While coming out on the Internet can be daunting in its own right, as it’s highly public, some LGBTQ folks feel a sense of community and support when sharing their stories on a larger scale,” Namaste wrote. “Conversations about coming out that once may have taken place at the meeting of a Gay-Straight Alliance, an LGBT center or a gay bar are now taking place shared with followers and Facebook friends.”

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The influx of ways to share personal stories online offers a safe space for prominent figures and LGBTQ community members alike. YouTube stars like Ingrid Nilsen and Connor Franta, as well as celebrities like Tom Daley, have come out in videos that have accrued millions of page views.

But the variety of social media offerings means that LGBTQ-identifying individuals have an opportunity to come out in varying levels of visibility and modes of creative self-expression. Platforms that don’t require real names and pictures, like Tumblr and Reddit, provide ways to anonymously share. Meanwhile, posts on public platforms like Instagram or Facebook are the equivalent of making an announcement in the public square that gets the word out there.

But it’s possible that in the future, coming out won’t have to be such a big deal. The same Tinder survey found that 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ adults never formally came out, partly due to normalization and reduced stigma of LGBTQ+ identities.


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How Amazon’s ‘Good Omens’ made a classic 1930s Bentley drive 90 miles per hour through an inferno (AMZN)

Category : entrepreneur

Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “Good Omens.”

Director Douglas Mackinnon instructed actor David Tennant to channel his “Doctor Who” days on the set of the Amazon’s and BBC’s “Good Omens.” Tennant portrays the demon, Crowley, in the miniseries. In one sequence, he watches his beloved 1930s Bentley — a car he’s owned since it was new — explode in a fiery wreck.

“It’s like Doctor Who seeing the TARDIS blow up,” Mackinnon, who directed episodes of the BBC TV series, told Tennant, who played the tenth Doctor.

“Okay, got it,” Mackinnon recalled Tennant saying. Off they went to finish the scene.

Like Doctor Who and the TARDIS, Crowley’s Bentley is an extension of his character in “Good Omens,” which is based on a 1990 book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Crowley can control the car using his demonic powers. At one point in the TV show, he drives the Bentley through an inferno with sheer imagination and force of will.

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Because the Bentley is part of Crowley, one of two main characters in “Good Omens,” the classic car had to look real, while doing things no Bentley of its time could do, like drive 90 miles per hour.

The classic car that appears in the TV show is a mashup of five real, constructed, and CGI versions of the vehicle, Gaiman and Mackinnon told Business Insider.

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In the novel, Crowley drives a 1926 Bentley. Gaiman and co-author Pratchett didn’t actually know what that Bentley looked like when they wrote it into the book. In those days, Bentley mainly made the engine, wheels, and a few other parts of the car. The body was built by coachbuilders and each car looked different.

“It was in the days before Google,” Gaiman said, explaining the thinking. “26 Bentley, that sounds right.”

A 1933 Bentley that had the spirit of what Gaiman and Pratchett had in mind was used during filming, instead.

But, the car also needed to travel at 90 miles per hour, a speed it could only achieve if driving on a slope for about an hour, Gaiman and Mackinnon said. To simulate the speeds needed, the show used a fully CGI version of the car and rear-projection backgrounds that were filmed a head of time for certain scenes.

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“What you see on screen is a complete mishmash,” Mackinnon said.

The car that blows up in the sequence with Tennant was real. To film it, the crew removed the interior of the car and built a set from it, which the actors performed in during other scenes, Gaiman said.

They blew up the exterior.

“Yeah, so, there were many Bentleys,” Mackinnon said.


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The CEO of the ‘Airbnb of retail’ reveals his plan to revolutionize stores and why Nike should be an inspiration for brands

Category : entrepreneur

It doesn’t take much to get Ross Bailey talking about Nike during our visit to his trendy office in Clerkenwell, London.

The “Just Do It” cap he’s wearing and the copy of “Shoe Dog,” Nike founder Phil Knight’s memoir, on his coffee table are an immediate giveaway that he might be a fan. And he is.

Bailey tells us about a time, not too long ago, when a group of Nike managing directors gathered at his office.

“I remember them being really pissed off,” he said. “They were saying, ‘We’re not doing a good enough job. We’re not being daring enough,’ and I just thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing.'”

He was impressed by their ability to question — and even criticize — themselves despite being a leading global brand. Bailey hints that this is crucial to any brand’s ability to stay relevant and exciting to today’s consumers.

He wants to help brands do just this via his company Appear Here, which has been dubbed the “Airbnb of retail.” Appear Here lets businesses rent temporary pop-up spaces in London, Paris, and, most recently, New York.

Since he launched the company five years ago, more than 200,000 brands have found short-term spaces through the platform. The leases range from three to six months, he said.

The company has raised $21.4 million in funding and counts designer Diane von Furstenberg, Simon Property Group CEO David Simon, and Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet among its investors.

Bailey’s mission is to make these cities — and hopefully other areas of the US — more exciting places to shop.

“We are not trying to do property, this is about entertainment and experience,” he said.

Focusing on the experience of retail

Buzzy luggage startup Away is among the brands to have used Appear Here.
Courtesy of Appear Here

Clearly, Appear Here is well-timed to capitalize on the problems currently facing the retail sector.

“[US department stores] were about taking the city to the suburbs. Right now you go into a department store and quite frankly, they’re crap,” he said. “The biggest fundamental problem about retail is it is being run by accountants. It should be run by showmen.”

Bailey is certainly not the first person to flag the importance of bringing an experiential element to stores, and he won’t be the last. Still, he strongly believes that providing a unique experience is a brand’s best advantage in the age of e-commerce.

Read more: The flagship store of the future will be nothing like the industry has seen before

Established brands are unlikely to win by going after a price point that Amazon can win at, he said, and they should focus on offering something in their stores that Amazon can’t.

By taking on a flexible lease and looking at the store in a more temporary way — a model Bailey dubs “pay-as-you-go retail” — the brand isn’t tied down to anything and can keep things fresh.

“That’s what’s great about a flexible lease — you show up, keep the crowd engaged, and you’re gone before the crowd gets bored,” he said.

Stores should be seen as marketing fronts for brands rather than just places to make sales, he said. The idea is that the customer comes to the store to learn and experience the brand, then shops online and spreads the word on social media.

A selection of younger brands, including Away, Lively, and Glossier, are already well-established in doing this.

“It’s about turning retail from a fixed cost into a variable cost,” Bailey said.

“Suddenly, when you do that it becomes a new channel and that channel is directly comparable to online advertising.”


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Tesla is going it alone while other carmakers are partnering and merging — here’s why Elon Musk doesn’t have a choice (TSLA)

Category : entrepreneur

Last week, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Renault announced a plan to merge. If it goes through, the combination would create the world’s third-largest automaker, behind Volkswagen and Toyota, and just ahead of General Motors.

Other carmakers are partnering left and right. The alliance of which Renault currently belongs includes Nissan and last year added Mitsubishi. Ford has joined with Volkswagen. For its part, GM and Honda are co-investors in GM’s Cruiser self-driving startup. Mercedes-Benz and BMW want to co-fund an autonomous electric-vehicle platform.

Tesla, meanwhile, has the market cap of a major car company — some $35 billion even after shares were hammered down through the first half of 2019 — and appears to want to work with no one.

Tesla is going it alone.

Read more: Nobody is going to buy Tesla — the company is on its own

In the past, Tesla saw investment from Toyota and Mercedes parent Daimler (since ended, rather lucratively for both), but for the past few years, the company has funded its growth by selling more of its own stock or by issuing debt. Access to equity markets is an advantage that Tesla has over competitors, as most of them aren’t able to use Wall Street as an ATM. So don’t begrudge Tesla that capital-raising option, which it would be foolish to avoid.

The big auto equivalent is to buy startups, as GM did with Cruise in 2016 for $1 billion all-in, and then to court outside investment. Follow-on stakes from the SoftBank Vision Fund and Honda have boosted Cruise’s valuation to almost $20 billion — close to half of GM’s market cap.

The time has passed for Tesla to partner

Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, left, is pursuing a merger with FCA.
Associated Press

Don’t look for Tesla to make any big purchases, and don’t expect the company to join forces with anyone to lower its costs or assist in improving what has been a pretty woeful history of vehicle launches and manufacturing ramp-ups. In fact, don’t look for Tesla to get any help from anybody. The time has passed.

That’s not because Tesla is a true competitor; the EV market remains tiny, disappointing, and expensive to participate in, so most automakers are still testing the waters. Tesla is beginning to threaten traditional gas-powered luxury car sales, but until CEO Elon Musk and his team can do that for years and years, the BMWs and Porsches of the world are unlikely to panic.

Tesla’s strategy of going it alone is actually a consequence of the company having little to offer a partner. Electric cars might still seem novel, but they’ve been around in one form or another for a century. Tesla made them cool and has been rewarded with upwards of 250,000 in sales in 2018 and at times a market cap of more than $50 billion. But the technology is nothing remarkable: batteries and electric motors. Tesla has provided some innovations, but nothing spectacular; its value has come from packaging — its cars are well-designed and beloved by owners.

Tesla isn’t unique. It’s a car company, and we already have dozens of those. That’s why Tesla’s stock is being so dramatically repriced; the markets have figured out what they’re dealing with.

What costs could Tesla save a partner?

GM’s Cruise investment is now worth $20 billion.
GM Cruise

Carmakers merge or partner mainly to reduce costs. The business is highly capital-intensive and cyclical, so auto companies are always balancing investment in new stuff with the need to hoard cash in the event of a sales downturn.

It isn’t easy to see how merging or partnering with Tesla (the former unlikely given Tesla’s elevated valuation) would lead to a cost reduction at any level. Tesla has only about $5 billion in cash, and it has lost money every quarter save three in its decade-and-a-half existence.

Tesla has also served as a frontrunner for risk in the electric-vehicle space, as it has spent billions to establish a market — billions that other carmakers haven’t had to spend. They can now jump in. But they’re certainly prefer that an independent Tesla sustain much of the ongoing risk.

So Musk isn’t going to get a partner, and he isn’t going to merge Tesla with anybody. Best case, an established automaker that’s behind the curve a bit, but that has a strong balance sheet (Toyota leaps to mind) takes a stake in Tesla.

Partnerships and mergers are a trend now in the car business, but that’s not the only trend Tesla is missing out on. The company has also benefited only marginally from four consecutive years of record vehicle sales in the US. That’s starting to change, as Tesla builds and sells significantly more cars. But it was perhaps too slow to develop new vehicles and get them to market.

None of this means Tesla is in some kind of crazy trouble. It simply means that the first new American car brand to be successfully established in decades is now going to stand or fall on its own merits.


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Everything you need to know about WebAssembly, the technology that fills such a vital need, Apple, Amazon, and other tech giants are racing to support it

Category : entrepreneur

The elusive holy grail of application delivery for the past three decades has been the promise of enabling the ability to write application code once and and run it anywhere.

It’s a quest that has felled companies big and small — but that might finally now be coming to fruition in a cross-industry effort to push new standards, loosely aligned around the name WebAssembly, commonly referred to by the acronym WASM.

Apple, Google, Amazon and Mozilla are among the many existing vendors that are working to develop WASM. Newer companies like Cloudflare and Fastly, as well as startups like Wasmer, are rushing to enable a new future that delivers on a promise that generations of developers have chased after.

With WASM and the related WebAssembly System Interface (WASI) efforts, backers are building a technology system that can run on any type of web browser, mobile device, or on any server or system architecture, without the need to adjust, re-compile or target any one specific system — which has always been the achilles heel of all application development. Even Java, which when created by Sun Microsystems (and later acquired in 2010 by Oracle) initially boasted the promise of write once run anywhere, has long fallen short of that mark.

WASM itself is something that is supported today in all major web browsers (Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox). With WASI, which was initially developed by Mozilla, WASM moves beyond the browser and can run outside of browsers on servers as well. It’s still early days, but the potential is there with WASM and WASI to one day run nearly any type of application, in a faster, more efficient way than ever before.

So what exactly are Cloudflare and Fastly customers getting that they weren’t without WASM? Fundamentally, WASM is plumbing and is something that most end users will likely never know about. For developers, though, WASM is a watershed, providing a new way to more rapidly deploy code with an increased level of operational performance. The promise of WASM that early adopters like Cloudflare, Fastly, Google and AWS are hoping to benefit from is an easier, more secure way for both their own operations and developer customers to get application code running faster.

Closer to the dream

More recently, Docker, the startup behind the eponymous software container technology, has come closer than anyone ever before in enabling the write once/run anywhere reality. Docker’s technology has gone far beyond the company itself, and basically started an industry-wide trend in Silicon Valley and beyond around software containers.

Containers, however, also have issues, as they requires developers to specifically target different systems architectures (Intel’s x86 and the competing ARM processor architectures) as well as operating systems (Windows or Linux containers). In fact, one of the biggest backers of WASM is none other than Docker founder Solomon Hykes himself.

“If WASM+WASI existed in 2008, we wouldn’t have needed to created Docker,” Hykes wrote in a tweet in March. “That’s how important it is. Webassembly on the server is the future of computing.”

Hykes’ enthusiasm for WASM isn’t just some form of bystander cheering from the sidelines either. He is an investor in startup Wasmer, which is working to build technologies and a platform that brings WASM to the masses of application developers.

“Docker is a great technology and they have a lot of adoption, but the way that WebAssembly works it lets you create a form of a much more optimal container,” Syrus Akbary, founder and CEO at Wasmer, told Business Insider. “I saw an opportunity to become a new container system and that’s actually one of the mantras of the company.”

Comparing WebAssembly to Docker, however, isn’t where Mozilla sees the technology headed. Rather, the open source organization Mozilla — perhaps best known for its Firefox web browser — sees WebAssembly’s potential as going beyond Docker.

“We expect that the combination of WASM and WASI won’t just be an alternative to containers, but an improvement for most use cases,” Lin Clark, Principal Research Engineer at Mozilla, told Business Insider.

“Containers became popular because they provide the benefits of virtual machines with an order-of-magnitude lower overhead. With WASM and WASI, we’ll likely see another order-of-magnitude drop in overhead while preserving the same benefits. This means that the application will have faster start-up and a smaller memory footprint, making it easier to get these benefits on all kinds of devices,” Slark said.

How WASM Works

So how does WASM actually work? At its most basic level, WASM enables the translation of different programming languages and their output into one format that is universally understood.

That’s a big deal.

Currently, the way that developers work is with different languages that need to be put together into a format that can be executed (the “binary”) on a specific operating system. What that means is that developers essentially need to write the same program binary more than once for different deployment models.

The promise of “write once, run anywhere” is just that – the developer only needs to put together the running application code (binary) once and it can run on any platform. For developers and the organizations that employ them, the business value of “write once, run anywhere” is less complexity and improved efficiency, as only a single universal binary needs to be created, instead of organizations needing to spend the time and resources to have multiple formats and versions.

The truly revolutionary aspect of how WASM works is that it takes complex attributes of a supported programming language and essentially abstracts those away.

WASM provides a different approach to application delivery than Docker, containers for example. With Docker, a technology known as a container engine, that has been specifically tuned for a given operating system, leverages the power of the underlying operating system to run isolated “containerized” applications. Those container applications are portable, but are by no means universal. Developers with containers still need to have different binaries for different operating systems and system architectures.

WASM doesn’t require a separate container engine to run. Perhaps more importantly though, WASM runs at so-called native speed on a given system, without the additional performance overhead that a container or virtual machine layer might introduce.

How WebAssembly is used today

WASM isn’t all just about future promise either. It’s a production reality for some today, even though it’s still a nascent technology.

At the very least, what WASM is already providing to companies that have chosen to support the technology is a new option for application deployment. The vendors that are supporting WASM are enabling developers to fulfill the promise of “write once, run anywhere,” realizing potential operational, resource and performance gains.

The world’s largest public cloud provider, Amazon Web Service (AWS) already enables its users to run WASM applications. According to AWS, WebAssembly has attracted significant attention from developers in recent months, aided by a number of broader developments in the community, and its customers are starting to use it to build applications.

Google is also embracing WASM as a way to help extend its own services and accelerate developer productivity.

“Right now we are seeing teams internally use WASM to augment their existing experiences with functionality that is not on the web platform that we already have code for, or we need to be predictably performant,” Paul Kinlan, Web Developer Advocate at Google told Business Insider.

Content Delivery Network (CDN) Fastly also enables its users to run WASM on its platform. Going beyond just enabling its users to run WASM and get the benefit of faster application delivery, Mozilla’s Lin explained that for her, the more interesting part of Fastly’s adoption of WASM is how the company uses it as a foundational element of content delivery.

“By using WebAssembly, [Fastly] can have tens of thousands of different customers’ modules running in the same process without compromising customer security, while having incredibly fast start up times,” Lin said.

Cloudflare supports WASM delivery on its Workers serverless application deployment platform — providing its users with an approach that enables rapid delivery of applications and services, with less overhead than a traditional deployment model, which typically involves servers. Serverless is an emerging approach for computing that enables users to run code on demand, without the need to have a server running in the background.

Read more: Microsoft explains its big bet on serverless computing, the next major way that developers are going to write cloud software

WASM is also about speed, which is a big deal, especially for the emerging world of 5G deployments.

John Graham-Cumming, CTO of Cloudflare, explained to Business Insider that he sees great potential for workers and WASM with 5G edge deployment use-cases. With 5G, which is the next generation of cellular wireless technology, computing power can be put at the edge of a network in a cell tower, bringing things closer to end users. Having compute power closer to users also means there is an increased need for very low latency application delivery, which is something that WASM enables.

For Graham-Cumming, WASM is just the latest step in the continuing evolution of application delivery. It’s an evolution that started with developers putting code on physical machines, which has evolved over time to treat hardware like software. With WASM, there is a further level of abstraction that Graham-Cumming said gives programmers exactly what they want.

“Fundamentally, it comes down to a programmer wanting to write some code and run it somewhere,” Graham-Cumming said.


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Now is the worst time to buy Bose’s beloved QC 35 noise-cancelling headphones

Category : entrepreneur

The Bose QC 35 headphones, and the legendary Bose QC-series in general, have been the go-to pair of headphones for great audio quality and the best noise-cancelling. But if you’ve been mulling a pair, don’t pull the trigger just yet.

Now is the worst time to buy a pair of Bose’s $350 QC 35 or QC 35 II headphones, because the company just recently announced a brand-new line of premium noise-cancelling cans. (For the QC 35 aficionados out there, don’t worry — Bose isn’t totally replacing them with the new 700 model.)

Bose calls the new model the Noise Cancelling Headphone 700, and they’ll be fully released on June 30 with a $400 asking price.

The new Bose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700.
Bose

Why wait?

I haven’t tried out the new Bose Noise Cancelling Headphone 700 — which I’ll simply call the “Bose 700” from now on. But Bose claims they have the company’s “next generation” of noise-cancelling technology, which could mean they’re even better than the QC 35 series at shunning ambient noise.

Bose also claims its 700 headphones have greatly updated voice pick-up technology, which means phone calls will be clearer for you and the person you’re speaking with when you’re in a noisy environment.

Bose also says the enhanced voice pick-up tech in the 700 headphones will let your smart voice assistant understand you better when you’re in a noisy place, too. I’ll let you decide whether that’s useful or not, as I don’t use smart voice assistants with headphones, at least when I’m out in public where there would be a lot of noise.

Read more: I spent a week wearing Bose’s $350 noise-canceling headphones nonstop — and they’re 100% worth their high price tag.

Another quick thing to point out: Bose is finally using a new design! The Bose QC 35’s design is based on the old Bose Quiet Comfort II headphones from 2003, and they feel awfully plasticky for a pair of $350 headphones. The design is recognizable and iconic, but it’s nice to see something new from Bose using more premium materials like stainless steel.

The Bose 700 headphones are available to pre-order right now, but they’re $50 more than the stalwart QC 35. My best advice is to wait until you’ve read a few reviews, including my own review once I get my hands on them, to see if that extra $50 for the 700 headphones is worth it.


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Spotify is building shared-queue Social Listening

Category : Social

Want to rock out together even when you’re apart? Spotify has prototyped an unreleased feature called “Social Listening” that lets multiple people add songs to a queue they can all listen to. You just all scan one friend’s QR-style Spotify Social Listening code, and then anyone can add songs to the real-time playlist. Spotify could potentially expand the feature to synchronize playback so you’d actually hear the same notes at the same time, but for now it’s a just a shared queue.

Social Listening could give Spotify a new viral growth channel, as users could urge friends to download the app to sync up. The intimate experience of co-listening might lead to longer sessions with Spotify, boosting ad plays or subscription retention. Plus, it could differentiate Spotify from Apple Music, YouTube Music, Tidal and other competing streaming services.

A Spotify spokesperson tells TechCrunch that “We’re always testing new products and experiences, but have no further news to share at this time.” Spotify already offers Collaborative Playlists friends can add to, but Social Listening is designed for real-time sharing. The company refused to provide further details on the prototype or when it might launch.

The feature is reminiscent of Turntable.fm, a 2011 startup that let people DJ in virtual rooms on their desktop that other people could join where they could chat, vote on the next song and watch everyone’s avatars dance. But the company struggled to properly monetize through ad-free subscriptions and shut down in 2014. Facebook briefly offered its own version called “Listen With…” in 2012 that let Spotify or Rdio users synchronize music playback.

Spotify Social Listening was first spotted by reverse-engineering sorceress and frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong. She discovered code for the feature buried in Spotify’s Android app, but for now it’s only available to Spotify employees. Social Listening appears in the menu of connected devices you can open while playing a song beside nearby Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices. “Connect with friends: Your friends can add tracks by scanning this code – You can also scan a friend’s code,” the feature explains.

A help screen describes Social Listening as “Listen to music together. 1. On your phone, play a song and select (Connected Devices). You’ll see a code at the bottom of the screen. 2. On your friend’s phone, select the same (Connected Devices) icon, tap SCAN CODE, and point the camera at your code. 3. Now you can control the music together.” You’ll then see friends who are part of your Social Listening session listed in the Connected Devices menu. Users can also copy and share a link to join their Social Listening session that starts with the URL prefix https://open.spotify.com/socialsession/. Note that Spotify never explicitly says that playback will be synchronized.

With streaming apps largely having the same music catalog and similar $9.99 per month premium pricing, they have to compete on discovery and user experience. Spotify has long been in the lead here with its algorithmically personalized Discover Weekly playlists, which were promptly copied by Apple and SoundCloud.

Oddly, Spotify has stripped out some of its own social features over the years, eliminating the in-app messaging inbox and instead pushing users to share songs over third-party messaging apps. The deemphasis in discovery through friends conveniently puts the focus on Spotify’s owned playlists. That gives it leverage over the record labels during their rate negotiations as it’s who influences which songs will become hits, so if labels don’t play nice their artists might not get promoted via playlists.

That’s why it’s good to see Spotify remembering that music is an inherently social experience. Music physically touches us through its vibrations, and when people listen to the same songs and are literally moved by it at the same time, it creates a sense of togetherness we’re too often deprived of on the internet.