Sunday, November 30, 2014

(The Big Disrupt) Google: Is The EU About To Break Up Google? Don't Hold Your Breath

In what feels like a sustained attack on the search giant, the EU has once again ramped up the pressure on Google with the European Parliament passing a resolution for the breakup of the company’s search business which control 90%  of search advertising in the continent.
Google has been embroiled in a four year antitrust case with the EU over its dominant position in search[1]

The Silicon Valley giant has tried to settle offering a number of compromises but as things stand, the case is still open. Google hasn’t been the only company that has fallen foul of the EU’s tougher stance with Microsoft getting whacked for £613m “for monopolistic practices” last year[2]. Two months ago, the EC reopened its investigation into Google’s lucrative search advertising operation and was rumoured to targeting Google’s dominant position in the Smartphone OS space[3]

Bowing to the wave of criticism levelled at the body by ministers of from two of “big three”, other commissioners in the EC and Google’s competitors, the EC was forced open the long running investigation it clearly wants to put to bed. Almunia, clearly not keen on taking action on Google, refused to put a timeline on what has become a four year investigation as he said “we work in a rigorous way, as always, trying to understand the arguments of the complainants and trying to extract from Google solutions to these solid arguments. We are in this process.”[4]

The investigation has instead been passed over to new competition commissioner Margrete Vestager who seems just as cautious as her predecessor[5] . Stressing caution in her opening public remarks, Vestager told the European Parliament “"The issues at stake in our investigations have a big potential impact on many players, they are multifaceted and complex. I will therefore need some time to decide on the next steps”[6]. She has also ignored calls to widen the scope of the investigation by Google’s competitors as she insisted that she “will focus entirely on competition”[7]

However, Vestager, just a few weeks into her new role, has had a world of pressure foisted upon her by the European Parliament after the body put forward a draft proposal for the breakup of Google’s search business. “The European Parliament doesn't have the power to break up Google, but the motion could apply political pressure on the European Commission, which sets the region's legislative agenda. The Commission itself is investigating Google's competitive practices[8]

The United States was less than pleased with the news of the proposal concerned about its’ obvious political nature[9]. However the United States really has nothing to worry about as Vestager seems even more cautious than her predecessor who was prepared to squeeze concessions or a fine Google for its’ transgressions[10]. Nontheless, on the 27th, the proposal passed as a “non binding resolution” by a wide 210 vote margin

However, for all the bluster and headlines generated by the European Parliament proposal and subsequent resolution, it’s hard to see the EC taking Google to court never mind winning the case. What is more likely to happen is that the EC will try to squeeze more concessions out of Google and maybe even a hefty fine as the body clearly doesn’t want to increase political tensions between the EU and the US.

In sum, the EU maybe taking a tougher stance on the Google front but clearly not too hard a stance breaking up Google would set a precedent that neither the EC or its’ competition commissioner is willing to set.

[1] Ibid
[2] Ibid
[4] Ibid
[7] Ibid
[9] Ibid

Saturday, November 29, 2014

(Movies) Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens Official Teaser Trailer #1 (2015) - J.J. Abrams Movie HD

Check out the latest trailer for latest addition to the Star Wars franchise "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

Friday, November 28, 2014

(The Big Disrupt) Internet of Things: The Internet of Things as the biggest data grab in the history of man

I’ll be the first to admit that title above is a little hyperbolic but what’s really scary is that it’s not really that far from the truth. There has been much talk about the Internet Of Things (IOT) which connects “things” such as smartphones and fridges to the net and allows these devices to communicate with each other.

Tech titans from Google to Cisco Systems have talking up the potential of the internet of things (IOT) with Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers wagering that the market for IOT could worth $19 trillion[1]. I wouldn’t (nor would chambers for that matter) know whether the internet of things will become a multitrillion dollar market but what I, chambers and bunch of tech companies know full well is that IOT will be the main driver of the biggest data grab in history of the species.

Any tech executive you can get your hands on will talk enthusiastically about the internet of things and its benefits but what he won’t tell you, or won’t be able to tell you, is why “things” need to be connected in the first place. I’ve watched tech exec after tech exec waffle away x amount of minutes of his time and mine about the internet of things and its benefits and all I could glean from all the waffle was IOT would produce two big winners, 1) data analysts and 2) the organizations they work for.

Companies for years have been collecting data on us for ages to figure us out and get a better read on our buying habits and with the advent of IOT, companies of today and tomorrow will be able to get the best reads on their customers John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford would have killed their grandmothers for.

However, companies who were looking to get a better read on their customers’ needs and wants will get a deluge of information that is either irrelevant or super-sensitive as for the most part, companies at the cutting edge of IOT have so far found it difficult to make sense of all the data they have collected via “things”. CMO’s and CIO’s everywhere have been racking their brains trying to extract information relevant to their company’s bottom line and have so far had not much to show for it.

Added to their woes, these companies will have to deal with the security threats that come with connecting a growing number of things to the web which companies have proven themselves to be mediocre at best and downright neglectful at worst. They have been relatively behind the curve on the security of PC’s, laptops and smartphones and are already lagging behind hackers who have already compromised thousands mundane item such as fridges and even toasters.

This brings us to the simple yet most relevant question worth asking about any technology: is it needed? My answer is an empathic no. IOT is not dangerous because companies get to know us a little better or hackers can make bots out of our toasters and toilets but because it takes control over how our personal data is gathered and used out of our hands and puts it into the hands of a handful of corporations who make their money off our data. Furthermore, IOT puts our data at risk because items connected the net are shoddily protected or unsecure, which is bad enough, but with the intrusive nature of technology, the information collected about will become more personal than it’s ever been.

In light of this, no matter how much tech executives at symposiums and conferences across the globe would beg to differ, IOT is not really needed and thus shouldn’t be widely adopted and as the economists’ recently pointed out, “who needs a smart fridge anyway” as I would quite like my fridge, toaster and yes my toilets to be as stupid as possible[2].



Saturday, November 22, 2014

(Movies) Foxcatcher: Director Bennett Miller Talks to VICE about His Latest Film, "Foxcatcher"

VICE talks to director Bennett Miller about the themes and characters in his latest film,  the intense"Foxcatcher", 

(Movies) Foxcatcher: VICE Interview With The Cast Of The Intense Bennett Miller Film, "Foxcatcher"

Check out the cast of the intense Bennett Miller film, "Foxcatcher", talking with VICE about the film featuring Channing Tatum, Steve Carrell, and Mark Ruffalo.  

(The Big Disrupt) Google: Is Google About To Change The Way Money Is Made On The Internet, Again?

Google is clearly looking to cash in on the general ambivalence the public has towards internet ads across the web with newly established Google Contributor  program which if successful will seriously change the way how most sites fund themselves.

Google's new "contributor" program provides access to an ad free internet on participating sites for small monthly contribution part of which will be paid to sites. While this sounds quite simple when explained, the ramification for this is huge if it works. It's a well established fact that most web users hate online advertising with a passion and with good reason as data and privacy issues associated with the web are largely driven by sites trying to increase ad revenues which most sites depend on. 

However, this all hinges on whether web users, like you and me, are prepared to pay for an ad free internet and more importantly web content itself and, so far, the answer has been a resounding no. If the answer was yes, Google would seriously reconsider their business model or go out of business, fast.  However, since most of us aren't prepared to pay for web content, we're stuck with individuals and companies that produce web content forever trying to second guess our every move because they need generate ad revenue to support themselves.

Google has grown fat and rich because most web content is not paid for by people who consume it the most which makes it even harder to understand why the Silicon Valley giant wants to rock the boat. However with little sober reflection, it looks like Google are trying to do what Comcast are doing: get paid twice for same service. The only difference between what Comcast and Google is doing that Comcast is doing will change the internet as we know it, Google's plan however will change how 1) how it's consumed and 2) sites support themselves which ,in my opinion, is not the worst outcome.

While this wouldn't be the worst outcome on the whole for the internet, it would make ad agencies heads explode in unison as an ad free net is their worst and if Google's contributor system works out, the online ad industry will get a rude awakening. 

In Sum, Google, like sites across the web, are looking for ways to pay for content other than ads but unlike Google, not all stakeholders in this attempt will benefit either way.

Friday, November 21, 2014

(Movies) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Ultimate Revolution Trailer HD

Check out the latest trailer of the penultimate installment of The Hunger Games franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay starring Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland and the late Philip Seymour Hofmann. 

(TV) Seth Meyer: Seth Meyer on Uber Controversy

Comedian Seth Meyer talks about a "couple things" about the latest controversy surrounding the Silicon Valley car hailing company.

(The Big Disrupt) Uber: Where Uber Goes, Controversy Follows

Is it healthy for a young company to be this controversial and increasingly unpopular? Well.. the short answer is yes. Uber has gone from being just another startup among many to a global company worth billions and according to a "leaked" internal report on the company's earnings, "could soon generate $10 billion of revenue per year" 

So why is this company so controversial?, is it because it represents so many negative stereotypes about american capitalism and indeed capitalism? or is it because everybody in the company's C suite are tin eared douches who are prepared to do and say whatever it takes to be no 1 and stay no 1?

So far it's safe to say the company has been swaying violently between both ends of the spectrum as it has gone from one controversy to the next. News of Uber Executives looking to use NSA like tactics against members of the fourth estate they didn't like has been another addition to growing number of instances that reveals the company as one of the most ruthless companies around as Uber has proven it can play rough as rough can get, just ask Lyft.

But what most interesting about the whole debacle is not that Uber was planning to spend millions on looking into journalists they didn't like but the terrifying reality the company have the means and inclination to pull it off with their "god view" tool that according Buzzfeed "shows the location of Uber vehicles and customers who have requested a car, was widely available to corporate employees".

Like it or not, almost all tech companies are in the data collecting and monetization business from Google to Facebook but neither company of these two tech giants has had  an executive brag, to a reporter no less, about what they can do with it outside a power point presentation or a hyper-managed public appearance.

While both companies have been at times spotty or downright poor in handling data, (our data, that is) and the privacy issues that come with it, neither company has had one of its executives using the company vast pools of data to track a reporter just to prove a point once again, to a reporter, without her permission. 

To illustrate, could you imagine the day when a Google or Facebook executive used their company's vast banks of our data to track a reporter without their permission (BTW, what reporter would give a company permission to track their every move?) one can only imagine the breaking of the internet as well as what would be new the global epidemic of exploding heads landing on laptop keyboards dripping with blood and membrane. 

Sure that sentence was a little morbid (that's what hours whittled away watching and reading of The Walking Dead show, comics, and novels can do to you) but the result would be same. People barely trust companies to keep their data safe never mind tamper with it or even worse use it against you so news of an Uber executive planning an offensive against the fourth estate and using the formidable resources of his company to do it doesn't help other tech companies when they try to explain away the palpable concern of their users when it comes to how their data being used (tech companies know most people don't read their privacy policies or even their terms of service which are almost always written in thick legalese and are the softest yet most effective form of obscurantism in the digital age). 

In sum, Uber are a young company that's really aggressive about being number one but with a company that has  turned into global company in no time and has a number of issues such the privacy of users or the fights it's picking with the second and, worryingly, the fourth estate, current culture at the company is getting all the press it can handle, good and bad. And with recent revelations of their plans to deal with journalists they didn't like, don't expect the controversy surrounding this burgeoning Sillicon Valley to be out the news any time soon.

Friday, November 14, 2014

(Movies) The Imitation Game Official Trailer #2 (2014)

Check out the second official trailer of the Alan Turing biopic, The Imitation Game, starring Bennidict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. 

(Movies) Avengers: Age of Ultron Extended Trailer

Watch the extended trailer of the second installment of Marvel's Avengers series, Avengers, Age of Ultron.

(The Big Disrupt) Tesla Motors: The Empire Strikes Back... Again

Tesla Motors has many obstacles in the way in making the electric car ubiquitous and actually selling them but auto dealers using their pull with state legislators is one obstacle they're not going to get around anytime soon. Auto dealers, dead set against Tesla Motors plans to sell their cars directly to customers, once again showed just how much clout they have at state level across the country as Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed off on a bill that prohibits carmakers, never mind Tesla, from selling their cars directly to consumers.

While Snyder maintained that the bill reflected existing law, it clearly was a signal that Tesla wasn't about disrupt the auto dealer system in Michigan or other companies in the home state of the big three. So far, Tesla Motors, like many innovative companies, has found itself outfoxed and out-muscled against entrenched interests with political connections that run deep but with the announcement that the company was going to build a $5bn in Nevada, it seems like electric car manufacturer is learning how to play the game.

Uber, who have made waves aggressively disrupting the taxi and private hire cab worldwide, has run into the same problem but with it's hiring of Obama former campaign manager David Plouffe, the car hailing outfit has realized that ushering a new product or service that renders old or existing models obsolete is a political  as well as technical feat.

While getting outmaneuvered by auto dealers in a number of states sucks, things haven't been all bad for the company as while competitors Daimler AG and Toyota sold their shares in the electric vehicle manufacturer, Daimler AG sold their shares out of fear of Tesla's Model S which could serve as stiff competition to the German carmakers luxury models.

However the real problem confronting is not auto dealers and state legislators but just how it can meet its demand or even if there is enough demand in the first place. So far, Tesla hasn't made much effort marketing or advertising it wares which makes the company's growth and profile in the media quite a feat. Analyst have pointed out this lack of push might hurt its demand but Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has wisely fixed his focus on making sure they can produce enough cars to meet demand rather than get into the tough spot of stoking up demand for their cars and not having the machine in place to meet it. 

In sum, it sucks that Tesla is getting outmaneuvered by  auto dealers fighting to stay in business in the long run, the company looks like its in a good place as it has a great product and as soon they figure out how to make their cars cheaper, Tesla, and more importantly, the electric car, will finally get its due. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

(The Big Disrupt) European Space Agency: "Philae's journey" by Vangelis

(The Big Disrupt) IBM: What's The Matter With Big Blue?

While the title of this article poses a somewhat leading question suggesting there something wrong with IBM, It's quite obvious that something is clearly not right.

The heart of IBM's problems is not it's dismal performance or even bad management (though it has been woeful as far as strategy is concerned) but the mindset among its leadership which is heavily fixated on chasing returns for its shareholders as opposed to providing top quality services for its customers. This ill advised drive towards boosting bottom line growth was initiated by former CEO Sam Palmisano "roadmap 2015" initiative (then continued until recently by current CEO Ginny Rommety) to boost the company's earning per share which has instead seen the company lose top line growth, make significant cuts to its increasingly frustrated workforce, lose their shareholders money (Warren Buffet among them with his 7% share in the company) and fall desperately behind faster and more agile competitors in markets they should of had a strong foothold in.

This corrosive focus on bottom-line growth has seriously affected the business standing in the tech industry and has led to prominent figures in the tech space to question whether the company has lost the plot. On the surface of things, the answer to that question is a resounding yes as IBM has, on the face of it, forgotten that it's a tech company for the best part of a decade. 

The intense focus on buybacks and on boosting their profit margins at the expense of real investment in the company has left the company seriously behind the curve in markets they could have dominated. Of late,  It seems that penny has finally dropped in the heads of big blue's leadership that a lack of investment in an industry that that's rapidly changing is dangerous as the big bets on big data and the cloud has shown that IBM is realizing that providing quality services for the ever changing needs of it's customers is only way forward.

IBM has made a significant investment in its big data business with $24bn invested so far and 17bn spent on acquisition of big data companies.It has also made a serious commitment in innovating in big data with one third of it current research focused on big data. It's big investment already looking like a sound one as it's data analytics business brings in 16bn in revenue.

The company has also been investing in their cloud services with 7bn invested so far and has already achieved a dominant position with 80% of the fortune 500 making use of the company's cloud services. Its' investment in its cloud service has brought in 4.4bn in revenues and recorded a staggering growth in revenues of 69%. 

However, despite it large investments in big data and the cloud, what could be its most lucrative investment is in the mobile space. Evidence of this can be gleaned from its growth in this space as IBM has already recorded 69% growth in mobile and 45% in social business. However for all this positive growth in areas the company identifies as future sources of growth, all of  these areas are highly competitive and despite the company's considerable investment in skill and talent in these areas, the dynamics in these markets will force the company to move at a clip it's not used to and is likely to make the company's high hopes for all these areas difficult to realize.

But the biggest problem at IBM is currently how the organization is run because of its frankly foolish decision to focus on boosting shareholder value in an industry that has historically punished short term thinking. The strategy of focusing on the bottom line has led to the company not only making cuts to its workforce but alienating the staff it has with middle and lower level employees at the mercy of executives, clearly out of ideas, looking to squeeze every buck it can out of the company rather than address the company's dated business model and avoid the financial Armageddon to come if it doesn't.

In sum, IBM does have major problems but for the most part these are relatively simple to remedy but as things stand, IBM are going to look real shaky if it continues its current course which not only reveals the incredibly bad strategy and overall lack of management savvy among its top executives but the company leadership clearly running out of ideas at a juncture where this damning predicament can be fatal. IBM can be the great company it once was and if the company can scrap its current corporate strategy cooked up in its C-suite in favor of a more customer focused philosophy, IBM will once again be the company setting trends in tech rather than following them

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

(TV) Bill Cosby: #Cosbymeme in one word...Ouch!

Bill Cosby finds out in the most humiliating way possible what the internet really thought of him as the legendary comedian starts one of the most ill advised memes in the history of social media.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

(Movies) The Hunger Games: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 Official Clip

Check out the new official clip of the upcoming third motion picture installment of the hit novel starring Jennifer Lawrence.


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