#ICYMI: Popular Stories in Tech This Week (Week Ending May 12, 2017)
Lindsey Weber / May 12, 2017
After Snapchat’s first Q1 earnings call announced that the newly IPOed startup missed on its growth goals, its stock subsequently plunged 20%. Amazon announced its next step for the Amazon Echo—a bigger version called “Amazon Show,” which features a screen and the ability to make free calls from Echo-to-Echo. Microsoft announced updates to its Windows 10 “Creators Update,” mainly focusing on making its platform easier to use across all devices.
1. Snap misses on Q1 earnings, stock craters 20%—Business Insider, Alex Heath
Top line: “Snapchat’s user growth slowed to its lowest pace in years, as parent company Snap Inc. missed Wall Street expectations for its first quarterly earnings as a public company on Wednesday, sending its shares plunging more than 20% in after-hours trading.
“Snap added 8 million new daily users in the first three months of the year, representing year-on-year growth of 36%. At this time last year, Snapchat was growing its DAUs by 52%.”
2. Here’s how Amazon’s Echo Show works—TechCrunch, Romain Dillet
Top line: “As you can see in Amazon’s own video at the top, the main feature is going to be video calls with other family members. You don’t necessarily need to call someone who has another Echo Show. You can call someone who uses the Amazon Alexa app. But it’s clear that Amazon wants to connect grandparents with their grandchildren. It’s not as complicated or fragile as a smartphone.”
3. Microsoft Makes Windows Play Nice With All Your Other Gadgets—Wired, David Pierce
Top line: “Windows 10 might be ‘the last version of Windows,’ but Microsoft’s not done updating the thing. This week, two months after the big so-called Creators Update, Windows chief Terry Myerson announced another set of upgrades, coming this fall. It’s also called the Creators Update, for some reason. This time, rather than improving the built-in Windows apps in the hope that you won’t need so many third-party downloads, Microsoft’s focusing on making Windows 10 a more functional part of your entire gadget ecosystem. It’ll also be the first version of Windows to feature a new design language, called Fluent, that uses blurring and transparency to bring a more futuristic vibe to Windows.
“Above all else, the next version of Windows will work to be a more accepting part of your entire gadget ecosystem.”
4. Facebook Is Using AI To Make Language Translation Much Faster—Fast Company, Daniel Terdiman
Top line: “The company’s artificial intelligence research team (FAIR) announced this morning the completion of a yearlong project aimed at boosting language translation efficiency. The new method, which relies on what are known as convolutional neural networks, or CNNs, has successfully ‘achieved state-of-the-art accuracy at nine times the speed of’ current systems, Facebook wrote in a blog post. It’s a vital development for the social network—after all, there are thousands of languages, and the company doesn’t want its users to have to worry that something they post will be ignored by others because they don’t understand the content..”
5. Verizon beats AT&T to buy spectrum holder Straight Path—Reuters, Anjali Athavaley and Rishika Sadam
Top line: “Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) snapped up wireless spectrum holder Straight Path Communications Inc (STRP.A) in a $3.1 billion deal, roughly double rival AT&T’s (T.N) initial offer, as Verizon seeks an advantage in the race toward a 5G network.
“Straight Path is one of the largest holders of millimeter wave spectrum, which is expected to play a large role in 5G. In general, 5G is expected to boast higher speeds, shorter response times and more capacity.”
Topic to follow: Verizon
6. This Computer Language Is Feeding Hacker Values into Young Minds—Backchannel, Steven Levy
Top line: “One of Papert’s most noted contributions was Logo, a simple computer language for kids. Though Resnick loved the language — he introduced a variation of it in his PhD thesis — eventually he came to bemoan its limitations. ‘Logo hadn’t kept up with the times,’ says Resnick, who by the 1990s was heading a group at MIT’s Media Lab charmingly dubbed the Lifelong Kindergarten Group. One of his projects was establishing a series of after-school ‘Computer Clubhouses’ in low-income communities, a program eventually funded by Intel. ‘We saw that lots of kids wanted to create their own interactive stories, games, and animations, but there weren’t good tools to do it,’ he says.”
Topic to follow: Programming
7. Your Password Is Terrible and Everyone Wants to Fix That—Bloomberg, Nate Laxon
Top line: “Headlines about mass data breaches have become ominously routine, and yet password convenience still trumps security for most people. That’s why, year after year, the world’s most popular log-on remains ‘123456,’ a password so obvious it accounted for 17 percent of the 10 million compromised passwords analyzed by Keeper Security, which sells a log-in management service.
“The answer, of course, is to get rid of passwords altogether. Biometric technology—especially fingerprint scanners—has been steadily replacing the need to type in a password, which can easily be guessed by hackers wielding smart algorithms. Now, with the world increasingly embracing voice-activated devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, companies are starting to create technology that recognizes a person’s speech patterns. Facial recognition is beginning to catch on as well.”
Topic to follow: Security
8. Are gadgets going to get more fidgety?—CNET, Scott Stein
Top line: “Fidget spinners are at the center of a trend right now, among kids especially, but adults too. Their popularity seemingly sprang from nowhere, but they’re prized for occupying hands and giving focus to people whose nervous energy might otherwise cause them to click pens or twirl their hair or tap their fingers on a tabletop.
“…It makes me wonder if, after years of electronics shedding their buttons and switches, we’ve collectively missed the satisfaction you get when feeling gears spin and buttons click. Could a simple category of toy bring them back?”
Topic to follow: Gadgets
9. Inside Zuck’s real political strategy—Axios, David McCabe
Top line: “The presidential election showed Zuckerberg that he doesn’t understand a lot of Facebook’s users, and this trip is a way to learn about a part of the world he’s been isolated from since at least his Harvard days. He’s already met with Facebook users who helped elect a president he’s at odds with. And while the Zuckerberg-for-president story has been overhyped, his friends think he may run for something one day, so these appearances help him connect to all types of potential voters and give him chance to get better at these sorts of appearances without the blinding glare of constant press attention.”
10. ‘Fitbit of sleep’: Apple buys night-time tracking firm Beddit—The Guardian, Samuel Gibbs
Top line: “Apple has bought Finnish sleep tracking firm Beddit to boost its health and fitness services, as it attempts to secure its place in the ‘quantified self’ market.