eBay is working with Google to load shopping pages faster

Google AMP begins to eat up e-commerce.

EBay wants its mobile shopping to be fast — and it is turning to Google for a boost.

The e-retailer announced on Thursday it will start working with Google AMP, the search giant’s open source initiative to load mobile websites quickly. EBay said pages landed through Google search — and through other AMP partners like Twitter — will improve speed for its item listings at first, but that the company is moving toward a “full-fledged e-commerce experience in AMP.”

We asked both companies for clarity on how many eBay pages are going to load through Google AMP on the onset, but haven’t heard back.

For eBay, the partnership could grease the wheels for sales, if faster load times do that. For Google, the partnership is a bigger win: It helps keep more mobile e-commerce activity — and therefore, search ads — on the web rather than inside apps.

Google AMP is partly a response to efforts from tech rivals to host publishing content on their own platforms, particularly Facebook’s Instant Articles.

But when AMP launched earlier this year, Recode noted that Google had ambitions beyond just hosting news — it is happy to port the entire web into the platform. We said that e-commerce was a natural next step. Seems that’s coming now.

Here’s our conversation with eBay CEO Devin Wenig from our Code Conference in May.

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Spotify says Apple won’t approve a new version of its app because it doesn’t want competition for Apple Music

Spotify says Apple is making it harder for the streaming music company to compete, by blocking a new version of its iPhone app.

In a letter sent this week to Apple’s top lawyer, Spotify says Apple is “causing grave harm to Spotify and its customers,” by rejecting an update to Spotify’s iOS app.

The letter says Apple turned down a new version of the app while citing “business model rules,” and demanding that Spotify use Apple’s billing system if “Spotify wants to use the app to acquire new customers and sell subscriptions.”

The letter, sent by Spotify general counsel Horacio Gutierrez to Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell on May 26, suggests that Spotify intends to use the stand-off as ammunition in its fight over Apple’s rules governing subscription services that use its App store.

“This latest episode raises serious concerns under both US and EU competition law,” Gutierrez wrote. “It continues a troubling pattern of behavior by Apple to exclude and diminish the competitiveness of Spotify on iOS and as a rival to Apple Music, particularly when seen against the backdrop of Apple’s previous anticompetitive conduct aimed at Spotify…we cannot stand by as Apple uses the App Store approval process as a weapon to harm competitors.”

Spotify has distributed copies of the letter to some Congressional staff in Washington, D.C. Yesterday Senator Elizabeth Warren criticized Apple, Amazon and Google for what she called anticompetitive practices; Warren said that “Apple has long used its control of iOS to squash competition in music.”

Spotify declined to comment; Apple hasn’t responded to request for comment.

For the past year, Spotify has argued publicly, and to various regulators in the U.S. and Europe, that Apple’s subscription policies effectively punish third party music services that use Apple’s platform, while boosting Apple Music, the home-grown service it launched in June 2015.

Apple doesn’t require subscription services to use its iTunes billing service, but it charges a monthly fee of up to 30 percent for those that do — and it doesn’t want app-makers to promote alternate subscription options via their iOS apps. (And, of course, app makers like Spotify can’t distribute their apps onto iPhones outside of Apple’s store.)

Those policies created lots of drama when Apple introduced them in 2011, but most publishers have ended up agreeing to use Apple’s in-app billing option, and paying Apple its fee.

A handful that don’t, like Amazon, offer more limited versions of their apps in Apple’s app store; Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently suggested that Apple’s subscription rules led Amazon to stop selling the Apple TV box in its store.

In Spotify’s case, the company has used Apple’s billing system for years, but passed on Apple’s fee to customers, by charging $13 a month instead of the $10 a month the service sells for outside Apple’s store. Last year, after Apple launched its own music service, Spotify became more vocal about encouraging users to pay for the service outside of iTunes.

Last fall, Spotify started a new end-run, via a promotional campaign offering new subscribers the chance to get three months of the service for $0.99 — if they signed up via Spotify’s own site. This month Spotify revived the campaign, but Gutierrez says Apple threatened to remove the app from its store unless Spotify stopped telling iPhone users about the promotion.

Spotify stopped advertising the promotion. But it also turned off its App Store billing option, which has led to the current dispute.

Spotify still has a commanding lead in the subscription music race. In March, it said it had 30 million paying subscribers; this month Apple said it has 15 million paid subscribers for Apple Music.

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Google decides on Nougat as the tastiest name for the next version of Android

That gives us something to chew on until the operating system is made final later this year.

Google has settled on Nougat as the name for Android N, the new version of the mobile operating system due out later this year,

Rather than picking the moniker entirely on its own, Google decided to crowdsource this one, opening up the naming to an online poll.

Nutella was the early favorite among the tech press, but that would have meant working with its maker. Google did that once, with KitKat, but the rest of the names have been generic.

One person particularly excited about the name choice is our own Lauren Goode, who lobbied hard for Nougat, which happens to be the name of her cat.

“While I can’t confirm whether Google named its new operating system after a cat, I will say that we campaigned hard for the name Android Nougat and are pleased with the results,” Goode told Recode. “I asked Nougat for comment as well, but he’s napping at the moment.”


Lauren Goode
The feline Nougat

Beyond the name, Android N is unique in that Google released a test version earlier than normal — offering up a developer preview in March rather than its past practice of doing so at Google I/O, its annual developer conference. Among the features are a new spilt-screen mode, improved notifications and support for Daydream, Google’s new approach to virtual reality.

Google announced the Nougat name in a series of posts to social media.

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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are worlds apart on tech policy issues

She said / he said.

Hillary Clinton laid out an extensive technology and innovation agenda Wednesday in a briefing document that amounts to a giant valentine to Silicon Valley.

A high-powered group of advisers from Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C., have been working to help shape Hillary Clinton’s tech policy agenda for the general election.

That should come as no surprise, since Clinton has deep ties to Silicon Valley and has cultivated relationships with some of the industry’s power players — people like LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr.

While Clinton has been campaigning herself hoarse in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, a high-powered group of advisers from Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C., have been working behind the scenes for months to help shape her tech policy agenda for the general election.

Donald Trump, her likely Republican rival for the White house, seems to have gone out of his way to antagonize the tech sector.

Clinton’s likely Republican rival for the White House, meanwhile, seems to have gone out of his way to antagonize the tech sector. Donald Trump called for a boycott of Apple’s products this spring, as the company fought its encryption battle with the FBI. He has repeatedly beaten on Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, warning that the owner of the Washington Post will face “huge anti-trust problems” should the Republican be elected president.

So, just how do Clinton’s positions on issues like net neutrality, STEM education and broadband infrastructure compare with those of Trump?

Recode broke it down, she said / he said style:

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Are we about to enter a new ‘golden era’ in technology?

Voice-based assistants and bots — plus enhanced sound and audio — will have a dramatic impact on the man-machine interface.

A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.


At the recent Code Conference, Jeff Bezos made a rather provocative statement when he said that when we talk about technology, we are on “the edge of a golden era.”

When it comes to artificia lintelligence, Bezos said, “It’s probably hard to overstate how big of an impact it’s going to have on society over the next 20 years.” He also said that Amazon has 1,000 people working on its Alexa platform, which powers the company’s popular voice-controlled Echo device.

Of course, Bezos is hardly alone with this line of thinking about artificial intelligence and its impact. Apple, Microsoft and Google are spending billions of dollars in research to create next generations of digital personal assistants and AI bots that will help automate a whole range of queries, tasks, and jobs.

AI — and especially voice-based assistants and bots — will have a dramatic impact on the man-machine interface and be a part of ushering in a golden era of technology.<

We have been researching AI as it relates to personal assistants since 2011, and the more we dig into AI, machine learning and cognitive analysis, the more we agree with Bezos that AI — and especially voice-based assistants and bots — will have a dramatic impact on the man-machine interface and be a part of ushering in a golden era of technology.

However, I think when we look at a new era in technology we should probably extend this to not only AI, speech and the role machine learning will play, but also in the way we use technology to see the world around us in new ways, as well as the role enhanced sound and audio will impact this new era of tech.

Since the beginning of computing, our interface with machines has been basically via text, keyboard inputs and 2-D flat screens. Formore than 50 years, this man-machine interface has served us well. But the next generation of CPUs, GPUs, storage, mobile screens, optics and wireless technologies are going to make the man-machine interface richer and more immersive.

The introduction of AR and VR will deliver the next major leap in this journey. With AR, we virtually see content and related data as we view it through various devices. With VR, we experience a form of teleportation that puts us at the center of the action. The computing experience becomes more visual and rich as these technologies create new virtual worlds for us to see, work and play in, and delivers the kind of immersive technology experiences that go way beyond what we have had for the last 50 years.

The visual experiences that AR and VR deliver to users that will be a big part of ushering in a new age in technology that breaks away from the past.

AI-based voice assistants and bots enhance the AR and VR experiences, since so many of the apps tied to these visual environments will demand hands-free operations. However, it is the visual experiences that AR and VR deliver to users that will be a big part of ushering in a new age in technology that breaks away from the past and delivers a much richer, visually stunning approach to interacting with technology at many levels.

Audio and sound will also be important in the new golden era of computing. If you have used Oculus Rift, the HTC Viv or the Sony PlayStation VR headsets, you know that a big part of the experience, especially in gaming and entertainment, includes 3-D and surround-sound audio. When you put on a high-quality headset and play a VR game or watch a VR-based movie or video, high-quality sound makes the experience come alive. High-quality audio is becoming just as important to those who listen to music, podcasts and streaming media as all of these applications gain from enhanced audio.

Although Bezos mainly pointed out AI as a key to his “golden era” thinking, it is clear that AR, VR and 3-D audio will also be critical components of delivering a radical new way for us to interact with technology in the future. For those of us who have been in this industry for decades, a richer computing experience will be welcome.

I can see how this new era — say, 50 years from now — will be more visual, with more intelligent interfaces, but can’t even imagine what the computing and tech environment will be like. The only thing that is assured is that technology does not stand still, and the computing experience of tomorrow will be one that will not be recognizable today.


Tim Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981, and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others. Reach him @Bajarin.

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Here’s how to make sure Facebook shows you the content you want

You can beat the algorithm.

What you see on Facebook is determined by a computer — a News Feed algorithm, to be precise, a piece of software that combines things it knows about your interests with stuff people post to give you a personalized stream of content.

On Wednesday, Facebook updated that algorithm, meaning it will start showing users more posts from their friends and family, and fewer posts from brands and publishers (like Recode).

But what if you like seeing posts from brands and publishers (like Recode)? Or you don’t like seeing posts from your distant cousin Alfred who has that obsession with sculptures made out of food?

Well thank goodness, there are simple tricks in News Feed to fix both of these problems. Come hither.

How to see every single post from a friend, brand or publisher on Facebook.

Last summer, Facebook rolled out a product called See First, a way to flag Pages or profiles you want to see at the top of your News Feed every time they post something new.

  • Visit the page or profile you want to “see first” and be sure you are already a friend or follower of said page.
  • Click the blue “Following” button on mobile, or the “Liked” button on desktop, and a menu of options will appear. Click “See First.”
  • That’s it. Seriously, it’s that simple.

Facebook

How to make sure you never see a post from a friend, brand or publisher on Facebook.

If you have a friend on Facebook you’re sick of hearing from, and it would be awkward to unfriend them altogether, just “unfollow” them. They won’t know that you’ve unfollowed them, and you won’t see their stuff in your News Feed.

  • Visit the page or profile of the friend you wish to see less from.
  • Click on the “Friends” or “Following” button right under the profile picture to reveal a menu of options. Click “unfollow.”
  • Boom. You’re done.

Facebook

You can also see first / unfollow people as their stuff appears in your News Feed. Hover your cursor over the person’s name, then click on the “following” button and select “unfollow.”


You can always change your mind on either of these features by revisiting a profile or page. And it’s easy to find suggestions for who to see first or review who you’ve unfollowed by clicking “Settings,” then clicking “News Feed Preferences.”

Now go forth and take back control of your News Feed! And maybe go follow Recode or something. It’s your call, whatever works for you is cool.

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Nest just filed a patent for a ‘smart’ baby crib

Is this the long-awaited fourth product?

The last time we checked in on Nest’s product roadmap, we told you they were thinking about devices for home security.

Here’s one that would fit.

On Thursday, the connected device company under Google’s Alphabet filed paperwork with the U.S. patent office for a baby crib embedded with sensors. The filing names the inventor as Maxime Veron, Nest’s director of product management and hardware marketing.

In the patent filing, Nest notes that people typically buy infant beds in three parts: A crib, a mattress and some sort of baby monitor. Nest’s proposal would pack all three in one: A crib flanked by cameras, microphones, an accelerometer, wireless tech and sensors for pressure, air and light.

Nest has not released an entirely new device since being acquired by Google in early 2014 (save a repackaged smart camera, from its troubled Dropcam acquisition).

The usual patent caveats apply here: They don’t necessarily indicate a future product.

Still, the market is big — online baby products, including cribs, generate around $5 billion growing at an 11 percent clip, per one report last year. And the invention is indicative of Nest’s stated mission of producing a “thoughtful home” and its parent company’s mission to collect the world’s data. Even baby data.

A Nest rep didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

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