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Benedict's
Newsletter

This is a weekly newsletter of what I've seen in tech and thought was interesting. See more or subscribe at www.ben-evans.com.
🗞 News
 

Google launched Stadia, a subscription streaming gaming service.

  • Instead of buying games, downloading them to your device (or using a disk) and running the code on your own hardware, the code all runs in the cloud on Google’s own computation resources, and the video output is streamed to your copy of Chrome, on any device (phone, tablet, Chromecast TV): your controller sends your movements back to the cloud to be acted on. In other words, the PlayStation itself is in the cloud and only the TV and the controller are in your home.
  • Plus, that video output is tightly integrated with YouTube (for those not keeping up, watching other people play games is a big thing)
  • This has been tried before, but Google is betting the time is now right and of course that it has the resources and end-points (hundreds of millions of people with the Chrome browser).
  • Lots of games industry questions here (Can Google bring in enough developers and titles? Does this find a market gap? What exactly is the pricing/business model?), but at a higher level, it’s worth contrasting this with Google’s launch last week of full speech recognition running locally on smartphones: Google is both moving computing from the cloud to the edge and vice versa. We have vast computing power at both ends and are working out what goes where. (See also Facebook’s move to end-to-end encryption: what will have to be happening locally on the device? Ads? Abuse monitoring?) 
  • Link. Also, (the) John Carmack is a believer: Link

After a decade or more of speculation and discussion, Apple is launching some kind of TV service (and perhaps also its subscription news/magazine service) on Monday at 10am PST.  The event will be live-streamed. (Meta-comment: Apple is making its move in the 20th century’s dominant form of entertainment while Google made its move in the 21st century’s new form of entertainment with Stadia this week.) Link

Surprising no-one at all, Instagram launched tools to let you buy products directly inside the app. Instagram is somehow a combination of both a taste and interest graph matched with discovery with huge e-commerce potential on one hand, and a deeply personal network full of cool new messaging widgets on the other . Link

Update from Facebook on video sharing and filtering after the New Zealand attack. Summary: this is not as easy as people would like and comes with real trade-offs. Link

From South Korea: a secret subscription service streaming footage of spy cameras hidden in hotel rooms. 😮 Link

Another day, another Android ad fraud story. Link

Volvo is adding in-car cameras to detect distraction and drunk driving. This can almost certainly be done without a network connection, with the full model running locally in the car. More generally: all sorts of things will become computer vision problems that are not obviously so at first. We go from cameras that take pictures to computers that can see. Link 

Google got another huge fine from the EU, this time for competition in the ad market. A billion here, a billion there - eventually it adds up to real money.... Link


🔮 Reading 

Amazon’s Alexa has 80,000 apps but no big hit. Personally, I suspect that the whole concept of Alexa Skills is flawed - with an audio interface, there is no way for a user to know what they are, far less remember them and form a regular habit. Link

How YouTube is changing the toy market. Link

Round-table on Google Stadia. Link

Stadia’s launch PR interviews. Link

Q&A with Instagram’s New Head of Product, Vishal Shah. Link

The impact of Amazon’s private label brands is often pretty limited, apparently. (It baffles me that people talk about Amazon’s brands as though retailers haven’t been doing exactly the same thing for a century). Link

‘Nine Reasons Why Disney+ Will Succeed.’ Link

Image recognition plus smartphones allow Indian farmers to diagnose crop diseases. Link

Apple released a study on how well the Apple Watch detects Atrial Fibrillation. Link
 

😮 Other reading

Nice piece in the FT on how the art world is working out what to make of ‘art’ generated by neural networks. Link

📊 Statistics

Fortnite now has 250m players. Link


 
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