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How Sonos Made Amazon's Alexa Sound Amazing

WIRED

But when Sonos started working on integrating Alexa into its multi-room wireless music system a year and a half ago, though, that setup posed a problem. Alongside the new speaker, Sonos also announced today that by 2018 it will support both Google Assistant and AirPlay 2, allowing Sonos users to query Google, use Siri to control their speakers, and to stream tracks from their iPhones. Sonos could have built an Alexa skill to let you control volume, change songs, and hear everything through your Sonos speakers. And so while Sonos improved its speakers, Amazon worked on making Alexa an even better DJ.


Why WeWork Thinks It's Worth $20 Billion

WIRED

We're standing in the epicenter of WeWork's cavernous New York City headquarters, where Fano, the company's Chief Growth Officer, has set up a demo area to show off new technologies for prospective clients. These offerings include building out custom office interiors, licensing software that companies can use to book conference rooms, analyzing data on how people are using those conference rooms, and providing on-site human community managers indoctrinated in WeWork's community-minded philosophies. It's a natural extension of WeWork's current business, according to Chief Operating Officer Jen Berrent, who explains that the idea of adding a services business is "something that there's demand for in the market." WeWork's closest model is Regus, a boring-but-practical shared office space business headquartered in Luxembourg.


Google and Microsoft Can Use AI to Extract Many More Ad Dollar from Our Clicks

WIRED

They talk less often about one of the most profitable, and more mundane, uses for recent improvements in machine learning: boosting ad revenue. A recent research paper from Microsoft's Bing search unit notes that "even a 0.1 percent accuracy improvement in our production would yield hundreds of millions of dollars in additional earnings." Google reported $22.7 billion in ad revenue for its most recent quarter, comprising 87 percent of parent company Alphabet's revenue. Google has reported steady growth in ad revenue for many years; Microsoft has called out strong growth in Bing search ad revenue and in average revenue per search in its past five quarterly earnings releases.


The Japanese Company Betting Billions to Prepare for the Singularity

WIRED

It spent billions creating a self-driving car, started Google Fiber to bring ultra-high-speed internet to the masses, and acquired the Darpa-backed robotics company Boston Dynamics. SoftBank is perhaps most famous in the U.S. for its ownership of Sprint, but it's spent the last two years investing in, acquiring, or founding a vast, if head-scratching, array of tech companies. It started a self-driving bus company with Advanced Smart Mobility; invested $1.2 billion in OneWeb, the satellite internet company founded by former Googlers; and purchased both Boston Dynamics and fellow robotics company Schaft from Alphabet. It's got assets, of course-- Son decided to sell off SoftBank's $7.9 billion share in Alibaba last year to help finance its $32 billion acquisition of ARM, the company behind the chips that power the vast majority of smartphones and tablets.


Intel's 'New' Factory Isn't About Trump--It's About Fixing Intel

WIRED

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich promised $7 billion today to resume construction of a chip factory near Phoenix that could one day employ 3,000 people. The company announced plans to layoff 5,000 people that year. An Intel spokesperson says it made the decision to resume construction on Fab42 this year thanks to projected growth and that Intel had not received any new tax incentives for the project (though it has received incentives from the state of Arizona in the past). In 2015, Intel spent $16.7 billion on Altera, a company that reprogrammable chips used by companies like Microsoft to power AI applications in the cloud.


Ignore Trump: Ford's Move to Mexico Is Good for US Workers

WIRED

Ford's plan to shift the production of small cars from Michigan to Mexico dismayed those people worried about the demise of American manufacturing. In fact, Ford building small cars in Mexico allows the automaker to ramp up production of trucks and SUVs in the states, which is good news locally and more widely. Labor comprises a smaller percentage of the cost of larger, more expensive vehicles like trucks and SUVs, which have far larger profit margins for automakers. In other words, it makes more economic sense to build cheap cars abroad and expensive cars at home--which is what Ford plans to do.


Prime Day Shows Amazon Is So Powerful It Can Make Up Its Own Holiday

WIRED

Today is Amazon's second annual Prime Day, the made-up shopping holiday where Amazon makes hundreds of thousands of discounted deals available to Prime members. Amazon launched Prime Day a year ago to commemorate its 20th anniversary, and in spite of what many subscribers viewed as a rather lame product lineup, the company said it sold more on Prime Day than on Black Friday in 2014--34.4 million items sold, or 398 per second. Amazon doesn't reveal how many subscribers it's accumulated in over a decade since it launched Prime, but research group Consumer Intelligence Research Partners recently estimated about 63 million members in the US--or 52 percent of all US Amazon customers. Echo and Alexa devices designed for the home, and a recent survey from research firm Contact Solutions found that 88 percent of US mobile users most frequently make online purchases at home, far more often than they do at work or on the go.


Intel Is Smart to Declare Itself A Cloud Company--For Now

WIRED

The press release said that the chipmaker was cutting 11 percent of its global workforce in order to "accelerate its evolution from a PC company to one that powers the cloud and billions of smart, connected computing devices." Considering that the PC market is dying and that Intel had never really been successful as a chipmaker for mobile phones, Intel is right to restructure (and remarket) itself as a cloud company--and, per the press release, as a data center company. According to research firm IDC, Intel controls 99 percent of the market for chips that drive computer servers. In short, Intel is pretty much telling the truth when it says that "the data center and Internet of Things (IoT) businesses are Intel's primary growth engines."