Waymo might be suffering from the innovator's dilemma

This is a masterclass in applying disruption theory and lean startup principles to Waymo and the self-driving car industry as a whole:

Everyone in Silicon Valley knows the story of Xerox inventing the modern personal computer in the 1970s and then failing to commercialize it effectively. Yet one of Silicon Valley's most successful companies, Google's Alphabet, appears to be repeating Xerox's mistake with its self-driving car program.

Xerox launched its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1970. By 1975, its researchers had invented a personal computer with a graphical user interface that was almost a decade ahead of its time. Unfortunately, the commercial version of this technology wasn't released until 1981 and proved to be an expensive flop. Two much younger companies—Apple and Microsoft—co-opted many of Xerox's ideas and wound up dominating the industry.

Google's self-driving car program, created in 2009, appears to be on a similar trajectory. By October 2015, Google was confident enough in its technology to put a blind man into one of its cars for a solo ride in Austin, Texas.

But much like Xerox 40 years earlier, Google has struggled to bring its technology to market. The project was rechristened Waymo in 2016, and Waymo was supposed to launch a commercial driverless service by the end of 2018. But the service Waymo launched in December was not driverless and barely commercial. It had a safety driver in every vehicle, and it has only been made available to a few hundred customers.

Today, a number of self-driving startups are aiming to do to Waymo what Apple did to Xerox years ago. Nuro is a driverless delivery startup that announced Monday that it raised $940 million in venture capital. Another, called Voyage, is testing a self-driving taxi service in one of the nation's largest retirement communities.

Right now, these companies' self-driving services aren't as sophisticated as Waymo's. Their vehicles have top speeds of 25 miles per hour. But Apple started out making under-powered products, too, then it gradually worked its way up-market, ultimately eclipsing Xerox. If Waymo isn't strategic, companies like Nuro and Voyage could do the same thing to the pioneering self-driving company.

I highly recommend reading the whole article. From Timothy B. Lee of Ars Technica.

Spotify acquires Gimlet and Anchor

From Spotify’s blog:

No other audio company has the two-sided marketplace that we have built at Spotify — a marketplace that benefits artists and creators along with consumers. Nobody else has both audio advertising and subscription revenue model at scale globally. Nobody else in music has the engineering capabilities and the expertise in audio that we have at Spotify.  And with the addition of Gimlet and Anchor, Spotify will now become the leading global podcast publisher with more shows than any other company. These levers of growth have the potential to double the size of our industry. And no other global company is as focused on this one thing — audio — as Spotify.

Success in podcasting (and other forms of audio that they might think of next) means that they finally have:

  • Content with zero marginal cost (increased music streams = more fees to record labels)

  • A key differentiator from other music streaming services in the market, particularly Apple Music

Legal data analysis

These days, however, Judge Seeborg and his colleagues produce a rich seam of data that is being mined by a group of companies threatening to upturn the way the legal profession operates. Just like a professional baseball or tennis player, Judge Seeborg, who hears a full range of criminal and civil cases, has his personal statistics that are now being rigorously collected and scrutinised. 

Much like what the A’s did for baseball, development in this field can change how legal systems behave forever. From Financial Times.

Malware-encoded DNA

In new research they plan to present at the USENIX Security conference on Thursday, a group of researchers from the University of Washington has shown for the first time that it’s possible to encode malicious software into physical strands of DNA, so that when a gene sequencer analyzes it the resulting data becomes a program that corrupts gene-sequencing software and takes control of the underlying computer.

[…]

The result, finally, was a piece of attack software that could survive the translation from physical DNA to the digital format, known as FASTQ, that's used to store the DNA sequence. And when that FASTQ file is compressed with a common compression program known as fqzcomp—FASTQ files are often compressed because they can stretch to gigabytes of text—it hacks that compression software with its buffer overflow exploit, breaking out of the program and into the memory of the computer running the software to run its own arbitrary commands.

This is a look at what DNA-based software can do in the near future. From Wired.

Missing cold wallets

For the past weeks, we have worked extensively to address our liquidity issues, which include attempting to locate and secure our very significant cryptocurrency reserves held in cold wallets, and that are required to satisfy customer cryptocurrency balances on deposit, as well as sourcing a financial institution to accept the bank drafts that are to be transferred to us. Unfortunately, these efforts have not been successful.

From their website. Another reason to never leave crypto at these exchanges and go set up a personal hardware wallet.

Gaming in the cloud

“But the business will live or die on how well the technology works. Unlike a film, a video game is an interactive experience. The computer running it must react instantly to the user’s input, or the game will feel sluggish. When hundreds of miles separate players from the devices crunching the numbers, that gets tricky. If the round trip from a player’s device to a data-centre and back again takes more than a couple of dozen milliseconds, things start to break down, especially for the frantic action games that dominate the best-seller charts.

Another issue is that data-flow created by a game can change unpredictably. While music- and film-streaming services can “buffer”—fetching the next few minutes of content before it is needed, to guard against connection hiccups—video games cannot. Connections must be rock solid.”

Don’t forget about the importance of the games themselves. Good content is the lifeblood of consoles and gaming platforms. From The Economist.