Go Strong, Go Tough, Cloud Marketers

June 23, 2018

Tough Tactics Not Benefiting Cloud Giants

There is a tendency for tech companies to go a little overboard in the hubris department. Take, for example, Facebook’s recent reckoning with playing fast and loose with users’ information. Some suspect a too-big-for-your-britches moment is stirring in the cloud services world with Oracle, who has made some odd choices recently in an effort to catch up to Amazon’s cloud services, according to a Light Reading story, “Oracle’s Aggressive Sales Tactics Backfiring?”

Oracle has been threatening customers with expensive usage audits if they do not move to the cloud and according to the story:

“[T]he tactic is backfiring.

“Several big Oracle customers, including oil and gas exploration company Halliburton, toy maker Mattel and electricity provider Edison Southern California, have recently rejected big cloud services deals proposed by Oracle, according to an Oracle employee with knowledge of the situation.”

Before we start building a pyre with Oracle’s name on it, it’s good to realize that they are far from the only tech giant trying to gain an angle on customers. Consider the flipside of the coin, Amazon is reportedly sitting on $12 billion in future revenues thanks to it’s aggressive discounting tactics. There’s a big difference between approaches to customer service here. Love or hate Amazon, you have to admire their customer-oriented style.

Patrick Roland, June 23, 2018



SoundHound Is Ready to Compete

June 22, 2018

What began as a music-identification tool is now a platform for building one’s own voice assistant application. Business Insider reports, “This 13-Year-Old Startup Just Got $100 Million and Is Valued at Over $1 Billion—Now It’s Taking on Amazon, Google, and Apple.” Writer Kif Leswing notes this recent funding round is led by Chinese firm Tencent, with other notable contributors like Hyundai, Daimler, and Europe’s Orange. We learn:

“SoundHound did not disclose its valuation following this round, but a person familiar with the company says it’s worth over $1 billion, making it a unicorn. It’s going to use those funds to go up against some of the biggest names in technology, including Apple, Amazon, and Google. SoundHound CEO Keyvan Mohajer tells us that he’s not afraid of those 800-pound gorillas, though. ‘We said, don’t be afraid,’ said Mohajer. ‘I always tell my team members, think of your competitors are variables in a complex set of equations.’”

That’s one way to look at it. Mohajer figures his company has one important advantage over those huge players—a less obtrusive integration into clients’ businesses. By creating, and branding, their own voice assistants, companies retain more control over their image and keep customers focused on them throughout the user experience.

Leswing notes that much of SoundHound’s funding has come from strategic partners, as opposed to financial firms. This is because, he reports, Mohajer is gathering allies in his face-off against the likes of Amazon. Mohajer declares he had to turn investors away for this funding round, so there does seem to be abundant interest in Houndify. Should Alexa be worried?

Cynthia Murrell, June 22, 2018

Can Google Flex Like a Start Up?

June 21, 2018

Short honk: I read a “real news” item from a company. The title was “U.S. Lawmakers Want Google to Reconsider Links to China’s Huawei.” In my opinion, the Google reacted to employee pressure, killed off Maven (a US government project), and assumed that its Googley actions were okay. Good idea. Flex and move on. But, according to the write up:

A group of Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers asked Alphabet Inc’s (Google on Wednesday to reconsider its work with Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, which they described as a security threat.

A bump on the information highway? A tactical move with unintended consequences? I am not sure.

Dumping government contracts is somewhat unusual. When I was working in Washington, DC, I recall that one day word diffused through the green halls of bureaucracy that Mr. Brin, a Google founder, wore a T shirt and sneakers to meet with elected officials.

But Google is no longer a start up. China is a topic of interest it seems. Flex does may not translate to surprised government entities. Procurement teams are usually averse to surprises in my experience.

What’s the trajectory of this Googley flex? Interesting for sure.

Stephen E Arnold

Management Expert Mines s Silicon Valley Digital Insight

June 20, 2018

I enjoy the insights of high flying authors, management experts, and academic superstars. Consider “Silicon Valley Has Become a Moral Cesspool.” I learned something surprising, no, shocking:

But Peters [management guru] is increasingly “pissed off” that people don’t seem to get the point: Businesses should enrich the lives of their customers, not just shareholders.

Subtle. Excellent choice of words. Tasty, in fact.

But there’s more to insight wordsmithing. I noted:

Peters [management guru] said that Silicon Valley, the former home of Bill Hewlett and David Packard, had become a “moral cesspool.”

Such elegance! Intellectual and olfactory associations delivered with a civilized linguistic payload.

Stephen E Arnold, June 20, 2018

It Is Just Business

June 19, 2018

Australia is a long way from Harrod’s Creek. I notice this “real” news item: “Aussie Start-Up Ups the Stakes in Global Fight with Google.

The story alleges that Unlockd’s app was blocked on the Google Play store. As a result, the company is on thin ice. The story reveals:

Google’s threat had “a deep impact” on the company’s now-delayed plans to float on the Australian stock exchange.

Is this possible? Consider that Facebook has been under a lot of fire since the Cambridge Analytica kerfuffle. Now The Guardian announces, “Zuckerberg Set Up Fraudulent Scheme to ‘Weaponise’ Data, Court Case Alleges.”  The article points to a lawsuit by a California company that claims Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg specifically, hatched a plan to “weaponize” user data against other companies. Writers Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison explain:

“A legal motion filed last week in the superior court of San Mateo draws upon extensive confidential emails and messages between Facebook senior executives including Mark Zuckerberg. He is named individually in the case and, it is claimed, had personal oversight of the scheme. Facebook rejects all claims, and has made a motion to have the case dismissed using a free speech defence. It claims the first amendment protects its right to make ‘editorial decisions’ as it sees fit. Zuckerberg and other senior executives have asserted that Facebook is a platform not a publisher, most recently in testimony to Congress. … The developer alleges the correspondence shows Facebook paid lip service to privacy concerns in public but behind the scenes exploited its users’ private information. It claims internal emails and messages reveal a cynical and abusive system set up to exploit access to users’ private information, alongside a raft of anti-competitive behaviours. Facebook said the claims had no merit and the company would ‘continue to defend ourselves vigorously’.”

As for those “anti-competitive” behaviors, the suit claims that as many as 40,000 companies that had been enticed to rely on Facebook for traffic  were betrayed when, it says, the platform throttled their reach to followers for business reasons. It also posits that the liberties the company has taken with user data were to make up for its failure to dominate the mobile space back in 2012. See the write-up, if curious, for more details. We are told a trial date has been set for April of next year.

There’s no pattern discernible from the actions of two different companies. I assume that “It’s just business.”

Cynthia Murrell, June 19, 2018


Apple and Google: Will These Giants Emulate Newspaper Work Flows?

June 18, 2018

With the problem of fake news online, the news itself has often made headlines of late. We’ve noticed a couple different news-related moves from big players: TechCrunch reports on Google’s recent project in, “Google Experiments in Local News with an App Called Bulletin.” We learn that Apple, meanwhile, plans to integrate its recent acquisition, magazine aggregator Texture, into Apple News and an upcoming subscription service in, “Apple Said to Plan a ‘Netflix for News’ in Latest Push” at the Daily Herald.


Google’s Bulletin is a place for members of a community to post local news and event notices.  TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez suspects it’s also another attempt by Google to squeeze into the Social Media space. She observes:

“The move to delve into local news would have Google competing with other services where people already share news about what’s happening locally. Specifically, people tend to tweet or live stream when news is breaking …. Meanwhile, if they’re trying to promote a local event …  it’s likely that they’ll post that to the business’s Facebook Page, where it can then be discovered through the Page’s fans and surfaced in Facebook’s Local app. And if Google aims to more directly compete with local news resources like small-town print or online publishers or Patch, it could have a tougher road. Hyperlocal news has been difficult to monetize, and those who have made it work aren’t likely interested in shifting their limited time and energy elsewhere.”

Over at the Daily Herald, reporters Mark Gurman and Gerry Smith Bloomberg note that Apple cut 20 Texture workers shortly after acquiring the company, but we’re cautioned against reading too much into that. The article notes:

“An upgraded Apple News app with the subscription offering is expected to launch within the next year, and a slice of the subscription revenue will go to magazine publishers that are part of the program, [sources] said. … A new, simplified subscription service covering multiple publications could spur Apple News usage and generate new revenue in a similar manner to the $9.99 per month Apple Music offering.”

Will enough folks pay per month for news, like they do for (other) online entertainment? Perhaps now, when it is prudent to be skeptical, people are willing to pay up to 10 bucks a month for a trusted name.

Next up: Emulation of traditional newspapers editorial processes. Why? Smart software is just so so when it comes to some types of information.

Cynthia Murrell, June 18, 2018


Could Ma Bell Get Her Old Mojo Back?

June 15, 2018

Many years ago I worked on projects for the original AT&T, also Bellcore, and USWest. I am not a bell head, but I understand some of the Maslovian forces at work. Telecommunications utilities want to be monopolies. It seems to be a genetic law embedded in former members of the Young Pioneers and in the bricks and electronics of the Piscataway data center and the Cherry Hill labs.

I want to point out the write up “AT&T completes Acquisition of Time Warner, Inc.” The deal may not be for copper wire and 5ESS switches, but Ma Bell may be gathering her skirts and getting ready to rumble.

The write up states that AT&T has communications, media, international services, and advertising.

What’s missing?

From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, AT&T is one acquisition away from bring back Ma Bell. Either AT&T buys Verizon or Verizon buys AT&T and all will be right with the world. Another angle for revivifying Ma Bell is for an investment bank to purchase both companies and merge them.


Digital services are more efficient and effective when they operate as single source providers.

Judge Green went against the natural order of digital services, and now Bell Telephone is one acquisition away from a most auspicious return. Will that happen? Could that happen?

AT&T just bought Time Warner. Why not deliver a true Bell head solution?

Even Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft would have to rethink their business plans.

One other benefit: Phone calls would connect more quickly and certain types of oversight become much simpler.

I will have to look around for my Young Pioneers baseball cap. I think I had a red, white, and blue one with a Bell logo. None of that death star iconography.

Stephen E Arnold, June 15, 2018

Does Security Sell? Will Security Provide Revenue Lift?

June 14, 2018

Years ago Oracle positioned its enterprise search system as more secure than any other information access available at that time. How did that work out? Do you use SES? Why did Oracle buy Endeca, ostensibly an enterprise search system of sorts? What happened to Triple Hop? Artificial Linguistics? The other search systems Oracle has acquired? My hunch is that security did not sell.

Now Apple is betting that its secure Apply phone will cruise along, sucking up the majority of the profits from mobile phones. The company has determined that engineers working for vendors focused on law enforcement and intelligence agencies will no longer be able to use the connection and charging port to hack into a mobile device.

Who knows? Maybe Apple can make security generate big revenue flows and juicy profits?

Apple to Close iPhone Security Hole That Police Use to Crack Devices” explains that Apple will close a “technological loophole.” The move may rekindle the push from some law enforcement and intelligence professionals for a way to unlock bad actors’ iPhones.

Our weekly video DarkCyber described products available from Grayshift and has mentioned Cellebrite in our weekly reports.

Our view is that considerable discussion and legal fireworks will ensue. Compromise? Nope, that’s an approach not too popular in some circles. Are companies governments? Can governments impact how companies do business.

This is a major issue, and the outcome is not as clear as the information about China’s surveillance actions. How has Apple adapted to China’s rules? How is Apple adapting the US laws?

Interesting days ahead.

Stephen E Arnold, June 14, 2018

Tipping Point: 25 Percent

June 14, 2018

i read an interesting article which contains an item of information related to social change. The question is, “When does social change occur?”

Research Finds Tipping Point for Large-scale Social Change” is 25 percent of a population. The source of the datum is research from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The write up reports:

Acknowledging that real-life situations can be much more complicated, the authors’ model allows for the exact 25% tipping point number to change based on circumstances. Memory length is a key variable, and relates to how entrenched a belief or behavior is.

The article quotes the study director as saying:

“Our findings present a stark contrast to centuries of thinking about social change in classical economics, in which economists typically think a majority of activists is needed to change a population’s norms,” says Centola [key researcher]. “The classical model, called equilibrium stability analysis, would dictate that 51% or more is needed to initiate real social change. We found, both theoretically and experimentally, that a much smaller fraction of the population can effectively do this.”

The datum, if accurate, suggests that Cambridge Analytic-type activities could have considerable influence.

Stephen E Arnold, June 14, 2018

Google: Allegations of a Disturbing Kind

June 11, 2018

In a pointed allegation, one online filmmaker cuts Google no slack for an unintended leak of his content. BBC News reports, “Google ‘Stole My Videos”, Says Film-Maker Philip Bloom.” Bloom, who expects to be paid for his footage, is understandably upset to see his hard work loose on the Internet. It seems an executive at Google used some 73 seconds of Bloom’s work in a thought-experiment video, called “the Selfish Ledger,” meant for limited internal viewing that was somehow leaked online. (How that person accessed the footage in the first place is unclear here.) Whether such internal usage, if successfully kept in-house, counts as fair-use seems ambiguous. Writer Leo Kelion tells us:

“The technology company used material from more than half a dozen of Philip Bloom’s films to make a provocative presentation about ways it could exploit users’ data in the future. Mr Bloom makes a living from selling rights to his footage, among other activities. Google insisted that it took copyright law seriously. It said that the ‘thought-experiment’ video had been intended to be seen by only a handful of people. It was made in 2016 by the head of design at X, Google’s research and development division.

Google added that the executive had now been reminded about its strict copyright rules. However, despite being aware of Mr Bloom’s claim since last Friday, the technology company declined to say whether it now intended to make a payment.”

I wouldn’t say either, if I were Google. It is hard to see, from the little information we have here, how much damage may have been done to Bloom or whether Google can be held legally liable. The clamor certainly cannot be helping their PR department, though, especially since folks were already criticizing the corporate video itself; The Verge called it an “unsettling vision of Silicon Valley social engineering.” In fact, it was that Verge article that brought Bloom’s attention to the matter in the first place, Kelion writes. For its part, Google insists the “unsettling” video in no way represents their actual philosophy and, meanwhile, has reminded the responsible party of the importance of respecting copyrights. Bloom remains unsatisfied.

Cynthia Murrell, June 11, 2018

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