Wall Street Journal


Google Seeks Path Back to China With AI Lab

Wall Street Journal

"We need to recognize the opportunity and leadership that China has already displayed in the area of technology and AI," said Google Cloud executive and co-head of the new lab Fei-Fei Li. "By opening a lab here, we come here to extend our hand out, and show this part of the world we would like to listen to them, work with them." Google has already hired "a handful" of top researchers in deep learning and natural-language processing, and plans to hire others focusing on computer vision, said Ms. Li, who is also director of Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Lab. Google declined to comment on how big the Center would be in future. It is the latest in a series of moves by Google that some see as a sign the company is pushing its case to re-enter China's massive, yet elusive, consumer market. Google's search engine has been blocked in China since 2010, when it refused to submit to government censorship.


Apple Acquires Shazam and Its Song-Recognition App

Wall Street Journal

The acquisition gives Apple ownership of an app that helps users identify unfamiliar songs. Users are often directed to listen to those songs at Apple Music or Spotify, helping those services possibly reach new subscribers. Such referrals could help Apple boost the number of subscribers to its streaming-music service from its current 30 million. Spotify AB says its service has 60 million paid subscribers. Shazam, which made its debut as an app in 2008, also gives Apple access to extensive data and insight on people's musical interests.


Meet Your New Boss: An Algorithm

Wall Street Journal

Companies say the new tools make them more efficient and give employees more opportunities to do new kinds of work. But the software also is starting to take on management tasks that humans have long handled, such as scheduling and shepherding strategic projects. Researchers say the shift could lead to narrower roles for some managers and displace others. When Shell wanted help evaluating digital business models in the car-maintenance sector, executives plugged the project into an algorithm that scanned for available Shell staffers with the right expertise--and assigned the job with a click. Shell uses machine-learning software designed by Boston-based Catalant Inc. to match workers and projects.


Technology Innovation Isn't Just for Tech Companies

Wall Street Journal

Information-technology executives at companies of all kinds in the Drucker Institute's Management Top 250 ranking of the most effectively managed U.S. companies have found ways to incorporate the best strategies from the technology sector to promote innovation, collaboration and new business models. IT executives at companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., WMT 0.01% Procter & Gamble PG -1.26% Co.--both among the 20 companies with the highest scores for innovation--and Capital One Financial Corp. COF 1.28% are taking on a more central role in the business, helping their companies adapt to the digital age. To that end, they're using cloud services and collaborative work models to speed up the development and delivery of technology, automating mundane work processes for employees and embracing cutting-edge technologies that add business value. "We're modeling ourselves off the best technology companies out there," says Rob Alexander, Capital One's chief information officer. "Not legacy tech companies, but companies that have been built in the era of the cloud and the internet."


Nvidia Stands Out in Management Top 250 Rankings

Wall Street Journal

Nvidia Corp. NVDA 1.44% has been a force among videogame fans for more than a decade. Now the rest of the world is catching on, as the premier maker of chips that paint scenes of on-screen adventure and mayhem emerges as the kingpin in hardware for artificial intelligence. Sales of Nvidia chips to internet giants like Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc. --which rely on AI to do things like automatic image labeling and language translation--have grown by triple digits, year over year, for six quarters straight. Investors have responded by driving up Nvidia's stock roughly sevenfold in the past two years, lately trading at about 45 times earnings, compared with an industry average around 17. The market is rewarding not only the company's dominance in graphics and AI but also its extraordinarily well-balanced operations. In the Drucker Institute's Management Top 250 ranking of the most effectively managed U.S. companies, Nvidia's overall score of 76.8, which puts it in the top 10, is based on strong scores in all five categories that contribute to the overall ranking--customer satisfaction, employee engagement and development, innovation, social responsibility and financial strength.


Visa Spent a Year Developing a 'Signature Sound'

Wall Street Journal

People will hear the signature sound when they make a payment through a mobile device or at a cash register. The company is also launching a unique vibration and adding animation to its logo. The creation and selection process, which took a little over a year, involved focus groups, three specialist agencies and rounds of elimination to whittle down 200 different sounds. The new sound, vibration and animation are the culmination of months of global research spanning eight markets, including "neuro-research"--hooking people up to machines and studying their physical reactions to the various sound options. "We wanted to make sure we had the global view.


Google Pulls YouTube From Amazon Devices in Latest Spat

Wall Street Journal

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., said Amazon's retail website doesn't sell competing products like the Google Home smart speaker or Google's Chromecast streaming device. Google also claimed that Amazon's Prime Video lineup of shows and movies isn't available via the Chromecast. It added that Amazon has stopped selling some products from Nest, a connected-device maker that is Google's sister firm under Alphabet. Amazon in October launched a home-security system that competes with Nest. "Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and Fire TV," a Google spokeswoman said Tuesday.


GM Aims for Self-Driving Taxi Fleet by 2019

Wall Street Journal

General Motors Co. said the robotaxi service it is developing could potentially eclipse the profits it earns in the core automotive business within a decade, an ambitious target based on the company's strategy of lowering its reliance on manufacturing by providing high-margin services. GM executives, speaking at an investor conference Thursday, said the company aims to run a large-scale fleet of driverless cars in big cities by 2019. GM is among the first major driverless-car developers to attach a timeline to the commercialization of autonomous vehicles, and the 109-year-old auto maker is racing big tech companies and Silicon Valley startups to lead the reinvention of the way people own and operate cars. GM last year earned about a profit margin of 7.5% on its $166 billion in annual revenue from global car sales. Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens said that the company believes a driverless-car service by 2025 will offer 20% to 30% margins and a "total addressable market of several hundreds of billions of dollars."


Google May Reunite With Nest as It Takes on Amazon

Wall Street Journal

Nest was a pioneer in internet-connected home devices such as thermostats and home security cameras. Inc. recently launched a home-security device that competes with Nest. Making Nest and its 1,000 employees part of Google would mark a retrenchment of Alphabet's strategy to separate its core Google internet business from a number of other units, such as its research lab and life-sciences firm. When Alphabet was formed in August 2015, Nest was the model "other bet," with its own headquarters, hiring process and perks--even its own branded bikes for employees. At the time, CEO Larry Page said in a public letter that "the whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands."


GM and Zoox Robot Cars Battle It Out in San Francisco

Wall Street Journal

On Tuesday, General Motors Co. GM -2.47%, for the first time since acquiring driverless-car software company Cruise Automation, demonstrated its autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric cars to journalists with test rides. Separately, Zoox allowed The Wall Street Journal in one of its vehicles for the same sort of ride the startup is giving investors as it seeks to raise as much as $500 million in funding, according to people familiar with the matter. Zoox, founded in 2014, is pushing for a valuation of at least $3 billion, these people say, compared with last year's $1.55 billion value. The efforts by two competitors to build up their driving abilities in a busy city center mark a different path than Alphabet's Waymo, which drove millions of miles on public roads, many in Mountain View, Calif., before picking suburban Phoenix to scale up its initial deployment. There, Waymo is testing the first fleet of vehicles without humans behind the wheel, and it plans to soon begin giving rides to non-company employees.