Weekly Links & Thoughts #65

Here is a weekly selection of thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read during the weekend.

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  • Searching For Sundar Pichai
    This is a pretty long profile of the fairly recently appointed Google CEO Sundar Pichai. I enjoyed reading this a lot. It’s written in an entertaining way and taught me a couple of things about Pichai and his personality which I did not know before. Admittedly, this is not too hard to pull off: Pichai keeps a pretty low profile compared to many of his CEO peers from the tech industry.
  • Facebook’s Live Video Effort Entices Media Companies
    The opportunity to let everyone (and especially big content producers) broadcast live video on Facebook is said to be one of Mark Zuckerberg’s most prioritized undertakings right now.
  • Clippy’s Back: The Future of Microsoft Is Chatbots
    Interesting look at Microsoft’s big new focus area: To become a creator of and platform for bots. The article points to Microsoft’s lack of success as a distribution platform for native mobile apps. By being early to join in on the current bot frenzy, the company hopes to leverage the expected shift from native apps to conversational interfaces. That could actually work. And not only for Microsoft. Consider which tech giants are currently pushing bots heavily: Amazon (Echo is basically a voice-controlled bot), Facebook with Messenger, and Microsoft. Apple and Google on the other hand seem much less eager. One probable reason: Bots can be considered as an alternative interaction interface, threatening native apps and making them obsolete. That’s not likely to be Apple’s and Google’s preferred outcome.
  • The state has lost control: tech firms now run western politics
    After the previous three articles, linking to this one by Evgeny Morozov feels fitting. Not everyone agrees with him, and not everyone shares the ideological perspective of this piece. But I think one should try to read it with a mind as open as possible.
  • What Is a Robot?
    What sounds like a rather simple question isn’t. A very insightful text.
  • How Trump Hacked The Media
    This is possibly the most accurate description of what Donald Trump did: He hacked the media to get where he is today. He exploited the dynamics of the attention economy and the short-sighted survival solutions that today’s media outlets come up with.
  • Spotify’s Billion Dollar Challenge
    Who will benefit the most from Spotify’s one billion Dollar loan announced this week? The ad agencies, and maybe a few smaller competitors that might be acquired by the Swedish streaming giant. However, SoundCloud, which just became a full-fledged competitor (and now charges users for its premium offering without paying all artists) might be too pricey.
  • Are Young People Leaving Facebook? Not Even Close
    A telling chart. Teens still spend large amounts of time on Facebook, no matter how much they seem to love Snapchat. Of course, with Snapchat’s latest enhancements to its chat component, Facebook (and especially Messenger) are definitely facing stronger competition. On the other hand, Messenger is gearing up for the broad launch of its developer platform which is said to be announced at Facebook’s upcoming F8 conference.
  • Snapchat’s Ladder
    While we are at the topic of Snapchat: A very analytical piece about how the service managed to get to a point at which it has turned into a big threat to Facebook.
  • Juno wants to woo Uber drivers with a more ethical ride-sharing app
    A ride-sharing app which asks drivers for a smaller revenue cut than Uber, pays its drivers just for keeping the app open on their smartphone and offers them shares for their work. This could be interesting. I am not a big fan of Uber’s exploiting nature.
  • Ordering Volvo’s new flagship sedan is a little like ordering a Tesla
    Maybe this is becoming the new default.
  • The Ars review: Oculus Rift expands PC gaming past the monitor’s edge
    Oculus Rift, the long-awaited virtual reality headset created by the Facebook subsidiary Oculus VR, is finally shipping in its retail version. As this device can be considered symbolically significant for the evolution of VR, I am linking to one of a host of reviews that have been published this week. Here are many more, summarized.

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