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This is Microsoft’s surprising ‘Plan B’ for mobile

Originally posted on Quartz:

Microsoft’s mobile comeback—at least how the company had intended—isn’t happening.

Despite Microsoft’s early presence in the smartphone industry—years ahead of Apple and Google—and recent critical acclaim for the software, Windows Phone is a flop. In the second quarter, Microsoft’s global smartphone market share was just 2.5%, according to IDC. That represented a decline from the previous year in both share and actual shipments, despite a growing smartphone market. It truly is a two-horse race, with Google and Apple representing a combined 96.4% of shipments last quarter.

A zoomed-out view of the smartphone industry shows just how completely Microsoft has missed the smartphone revolution.

Microsoft smartphone sales chart

But Microsoft, under new CEO Satya Nadella, still aspires to be a major player in the mobile industry. And this is where its stunted market share of smartphone software platforms really hurts. Not only is it missing out on potential hardware revenue, but it’s also losing a distribution channel for its own software and…

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How Watson Changed IBM

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

Remember when IBM’s “Watson” computer competed on the TV game show “Jeopardy” and won? Most people probably thought “Wow, that’s cool,” or perhaps were briefly reminded of the legend of John Henry and the ongoing contest between man and machine. Beyond the media splash it caused, though, the event was viewed as a breakthrough on many fronts. Watson demonstrated that machines could understand and interact in a natural language, question-and-answer format and learn from their mistakes. This meant that machines could deal with the exploding growth of non-numeric information that is getting hard for humans to keep track of: to name two prominent and crucially important examples, keeping up with all of the knowledge coming out of human genome research, or keeping track of all the medical information in patient records.

So IBM asked the question: How could the fullest potential of this breakthrough be realized, and how…

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Six alternative web browsers you should know about

Originally posted on Gigaom:

Most people are only familiar with the “big five” web browsers — Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera. But there are hundreds of other browsers out there.

Most alternative browsers are remade versions of [company]Google[/company] Chrome, [company]Mozilla[/company] Firefox or [company]Microsoft[/company] Internet Explorer. Chrome itself is built on Chromium, an open-source browser project; Firefox is also open-source. That means that any developer can take the code, add or remove some parts of it and release a completely new browser.

Why do that, though? The “big five” browsers are already highly customizable. Chrome and Firefox have particularly large libraries of extensions, but generally, you can tailor most browsers to your particular needs. Nevertheless, a large percentage of users may never have visited the Chrome Web Store or gone into Firefox’s Add-ons section.

Some alternative browsers can provide additional functionality for people who don’t want to bother with installing add-ons or don’t know how…

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Russia’s IO relocates to NYC, prepares to launch “Her”-style intelligent local discovery platform

Originally posted on PandoDaily:


What’s the best way to experience a new city? Most people would say with a local as your tour guide with similar tastes as you. Plenty of startups have tried to duplicate this personalized discovery and recommendation experience, including Foursquare, Nara, and dozens of others. But none have quite nailed it yet. Be it the user experience of getting to those recommendations, or the recommendations themselves, local discovery remains largely an unsolved problem.

Russian startup IO thinks it has a novel solution in its linguistic recommendations engine which allows users to talk, via type, to the app as if it were another human being and receive tailored recommendations based on the situation. For example, dinner recommendations for a romantic evening should be different than those on a work outing.

The company is in the process of relocating its operation from Moscow to New York, including transporting its 10 person…

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Huawei exec: Tizen has no chance, Windows Phone success is difficult

Originally posted on Gigaom:

If you’re Samsung or Microsoft, you won’t like to hear what Richard Yu has to say. Yu is in charge of Huawei’s consumer business group and has seen his company quickly become the no. 3 smartphone seller in the world. In a weekend interview with the Wall Street Journal, Yu dismissed Samsung’s internal software efforts and explained why Huawei has put Windows Phone on hold for now.

Huawei 4Afrika Windows Phone

China-based [company]Huawei[/company] used to build phones for carriers as a white-label brand: You wouldn’t see Huawei’s name on the phone, similar to how [company]HTC[/company] got its start. That changed, Yu told the Journal, when Huawei decided its phones were better than competing products and it figured to build its brand value. Based on the company’s growing sales, the strategy has worked, as only Samsung and Apple sold more smartphones than Huawei in 2013.

The company builds its handsets using [company]Google[/company] Android, much…

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A Look Back At Yahoo’s Flickr Acquisition For Lessons Today

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

Editor’s note: Tomio Geron is head of content at startup Exitround. This is part of a series on the tech M&A market. 

When Yahoo offered to buy Flickr in early 2005, co-founder Stewart Butterfield and his team had a tough decision to make. There were many reasons  to sell. But there were also many reasons to wait for a larger exit.

Today, deals like WhatsApp and Oculus to Facebook, as well as Nest to Google, can make it seem like massive exits are easy or common. But they’re often complicated and provide some lessons, according to Butterfield — now co-founder and CEO of Slack — and Cal Henderson who was head of engineering at Flickr and is now co-founder and VP of engineering at Slack.

Vancouver, Canada-based Flickr launched in February 2004 and started to take off in summer of that year, drawing the attention of Yahoo and other large Internet companies. While it…

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Automatic Differentiation: The most criminally underused tool in the potential machine learning toolbox?

Originally posted on Justin Domke's Weblog:

I recently got back reviews of a paper in which I used automatic differentiation.  Therein, a reviewer clearly thought I was using finite difference, or “numerical” differentiation. This has led me to wondering: Why don’t machine learning people use automatic differentiation more?  Why don’t they use it…constantly? Before recklessly speculating on the answer, let me briefly review what automatic differentiation (henceforth “autodiff”) is. Specifically, I will be talking about reverse-mode autodiff.

(Here, I will use “subroutine” to mean a function in a computer programming language, and “function” to mean a mathematical function.)

It works like this:

  1. You write a subroutine to compute a function $latex f({bf x})$.  (e.g. in C++ or Fortran).  You know $latex f$ to be differentiable, but don’t feel like writing a subroutine to compute $latex nabla f$.
  2. You point some autodiff software at your subroutine.  It produces a subroutine to compute the gradient.
  3. That…

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