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THE VOICE APPS REPORT: The issues with discoverability, monetization, and retention, and how to solve them

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 01:35 PM PST

bii voice app skills growth over time

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

The voice app ecosystem is booming. In the US, the number of Alexa skills alone surpassed 25,000 in January 2018, up from just 7,000 the previous January, in categories ranging from music streaming services, to games, to connected home tools.

As voice platforms continue to gain footing in homes via smart speakers — connected devices powered primarily by artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled voice assistants — the opportunity for voice apps is becoming more profound. However, as observed with the rise of mobile apps in the late 2000s, any new digital ecosystem will face significant growing pains, and voice apps are no exception. Thanks to the visual-free format of voice apps, discoverability, monetization, and retention are proving particularly problematic in this nascent space. This is creating a problem in the voice assistant market that could hinder greater uptake if not addressed.

In this report, Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, explores the two major viable voice app stores. It identifies the three big issues voice apps are facing — discoverability, monetization, and retention — and presents possible short-term solutions ahead of industry-wide fixes.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • The market for smart speakers and voice platforms is expanding rapidly. The installed base of smart speakers and the volume of voice apps that can be accessed on them each saw significant gains in 2017. But the new format and the emerging voice ecosystems that are making their way into smart speaker-equipped homes is so far failing to align with consumer needs. 
  • Voice app development is a virtuous cycle with several broken components. The addressable consumer market is expanding, which is prompting more brands and developers to developer voice apps, but the ability to monetize and iterate those voice apps is limited, which could inhibit voice app growth. 
  • Monetization is only one broken component of the voice app ecosystem. Discoverability and user retention are equally problematic for voice app development. 
  • While the two major voice app ecosystems — Amazon's and Google's — have some Band-Aid solutions and workarounds, their options for improving monetization, discoverability, and retention for voice apps are currently limited.
  • There are some strategies that developers and brands can employ in the near term ahead of more robust tools and solutions.

 In full, the report:

  • Sizes the current voice app ecosystem. 
  • Outlines the most pressing problems in voice app development and evolution in the space by examining the three most damning shortcoming: monetization, discoverability, and retention. 
  • Discusses the solutions being offered up by today's biggest voice platforms. 
  • Presents workaround solutions and alternative approaches that could catalyze development and evolution ahead of wider industry-wide fixes from the platforms.

Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now
  2. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >> Purchase & Download Now

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THE VOICE ASSISTANT LANDSCAPE REPORT: How artificially intelligent voice assistants are changing the relationship between consumers and computers

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 01:05 PM PST

bii consumer usage and interest in VAs global 2017 accenture

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

Advancements in a bevy of industries are helping intelligent digital voice assistants like Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa become more sophisticated and useful pieces of technology. 

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are allowing them to accurately understand more information, while upgrades to mobile networks are facilitating quick transfers of data to robust clouds, enabling fast response times. In addition, the swell of internet connected devices like smart thermostats and speakers is giving voice assistants more utility in a connected consumer's life. 

Increasingly sophisticated voice assistants and the growing potential use cases they can assist in are driving consumers to adopt them in greater droves — 65% of US smartphone owners were employing voice assistants in 2015, up significantly from 30% just two years prior. Consumers are also eagerly adopting speaker-based voice assistants, with shipments of Google Home and Amazon Echo speakers expected to climb more than threefold to 24.5 million in 2017, according to a report from VoiceLabs.

However, there are still numerous barriers that need to be overcome before this product platform will see mass adoption, as both technological challenges and societal hurdles persist. 

In a new report, BI Intelligence explains what's driving the recent upsurge in adoption of digital voice assistants. It explores the recent technology advancements that have catalyzed this growth, while presenting the technological shortcomings preventing voice assistants from hitting their true potential. This report also examines the voice assistant landscape, and discusses the leading voice assistants and the devices through which consumers interact with them. Finally, it identifies the major barriers to mass adoption, and the impact voice assistants could have in numerous industries once they cross that threshold. 

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Voice assistants are software programs that respond to voice commands in order to perform a range of tasks. They can find an opening in a consumer’s calendar to schedule an appointment, place an online order for tangible goods, and act as a hands-free facilitator for texting, among many, many other tasks.
  • Technological advances are making voice assistants more capable. These improvements fall into two categories: improvements in AI, specifically natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning; and gains in computing and telecommunications infrastructure, like more powerful smartphones, better cellular networks, and faster cloud computing.
  • Changes in consumer behavior and habits are also leading to greater adoption. Chief among these are increased overall awareness and a higher level of comfort demonstrated by younger consumers.
  • The voice assistant landscape is divided between smartphone- and speaker-based assistants. These distinctions, while important now, will lose relevance in the long run as more assistants can be used on both kinds of devices. The primary players in the space are Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, Google Assistant, Amazon's Alexa, and Samsung's Viv. 
  • Stakes in the competition for dominance in the voice assistant market are high. As each assistant becomes more interconnected with an ecosystem of devices that it can control, more popular platforms will have a sizable advantage. 

In full, the report:

  • Identifies the major changes in technology and user behavior that have created the voice assistant market that exists today. 
  • Presents the major players in today's market and discusses their major weaknesses and strengths. 
  • Explores the impact this nascent market poses to other key digital industries. 
  • Identifies the major hurdles that need to be overcome before intelligent voice assistants will see mass adoption. 

Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. » Learn More Now
  2. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. » Purchase & Download Now

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Putin has touted an 'invincible' nuclear weapon that really exists — here's how it works and why it deeply worries experts

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 12:49 PM PST

valdimir putin russia icbm missile election speech march 1 2018 reuters sputnik news agency RTX4ZS89

  • During a speech on Thursday, Russian president Vladimir Putin showed test footage of a new intercontinental ballistic missile.
  • The nuclear weapon, called the RS-28 Sarmat or Satan 2, has been in development since 2009.
  • Putin claimed the ICBM is "invincible" to missile defense systems.
  • He also presented animations of several other weapons, including what some call a "doomsday" drone submarine.

During Vladimir Putin's annual speech on Thursday, the Russian president played videos that unveiled brand-new nuclear weapons with startling capabilities.

Putin announced an "unstoppable" nuclear-powered "global cruise missile" that has "practically unlimited" range, then showed an animation of the device bobbing and weaving around the globe. He also played a computer animation of a high-speed, nuke-armed submarine drone blowing up ships and coastal targets.

"Russia remained and remains the largest nuclear power. Do not forget, no one really wanted to talk to us. Nobody listened to us," Putin told a crowd in Moscow, according to a translation by Sputnik, a Russian-government-controlled news agency. "Listen now."

David Wright, a physicist and missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Business Insider that the idea of an "unstoppable" cruise missile going around the world without being detected is "fiction," since it'd heat up to an extreme degree. (CNN also reported that all tests of the cruise missile ended in crashes.)

But he said that at least one device Putin showed off likely does exist.

"We know they're developing some new systems with a longer range and a larger payload," Wright said.

The known weapon is called the RS-28 Sarmat, though NATO refers to it as the SS-X-30 Satan 2. Russia has been developing it since at least 2009.

Putin showed a video of the Satan 2 during his speech. In it, footage shows an intercontinental ballistic missile launching out of a silo, followed by an animation of it rocketing toward space. The video-game-like graphic follows the ICBM as it sails over a faux Earth in a high arc and opens its nosecone to reveal five nuclear warheads.


Putin claimed this 119-foot-tall missile is "invincible" to missile defense systems.

What makes ICBMs so threatening

Intercontinental ballistic missiles are similar to rockets that shoot satellites and people into orbit, but ICBMs carry warheads and hit targets on Earth.

RS-28 sarmat satan 2

The missiles travel in a wide arc over Earth, enabling them to strike halfway around the world within an hour. (North Korea recently launched its new ICBM in a high, compact arc to avoid rocketing it over US allies.)

Satan 2, which Putin claimed is already deployed in some missile silos, is a replacement for a 1970s-era Satan ICBM. The new version is slated to reach full service in 50 silos around 2020, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

According to the Center's Missile Defense Project, the Satan 2 "is reported by Russian media as being able to carry 10 large warheads, 16 smaller ones, a combination of warheads and countermeasures, or up to 24 YU-74 hypersonic boost-glide vehicles."

That means one Satan 2 ICBM could pack as much as eight megatons of TNT-equivalent explosive power. That's more than 400 times as strong as either bomb the US dropped on Japan in 1945 — both of which, combined, led to roughly 150,000 casualties.

The technology used to deliver multiple warheads to different targets is called a "multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle," or MIRV. Such devices deploy their warheads after reaching speeds that can exceed 15,000 miles per hour.

Depending on where the warhead is deployed in space and how it maneuvers, each one can strike targets hundreds of miles apart.

Why Putin says the Satan 2 is 'invincible'

lgm 118a peacekeeper icbm missile reentry vehicle nuclear weapon testing long exposure dod

A recently demonstrated technology made to neutralize a nuclear warhead is a "kinetic kill vehicle": essentially a large, high-tech bullet launched via missile. The bullets can target a warhead, slam into it mid-flight, and obliterate the weapon.

"But there are a number of different ways to penetrate defenses" like a kill vehicle, Wright said, which may explain Putin's "invincible" claim.

Satan 2 has advanced guidance systems and probably some countermeasures designed to trick anti-missile systems. This might include "a couple dozen very lightweight decoys made to look like the warhead," Wright said, which could result in a kill vehicle targeting the wrong object.

Wright has also studied other methods to sneak past US defenses, including warhead cooling systems that might confuse heat-seeking anti-missile systems, and "disguising a real warhead to make it look different."

But simply deploying large numbers of warheads can be enough: Kill vehicles may not work 50% of the time, based on prior testing, and they're a technology that's been in development for decades.

Yet Satan 2 is not exactly unique.

What the US has that compares

Ohio class submarine Trident II D5 missile launch

The US in 2005 retired the "Peacekeeper" missile, which was its biggest "MIRV-capable" weapon (meaning it could deploy multiple warheads to different locations).

One Peacekeeper missile could shed up to 10 thermonuclear warheads, each of which had a 50% chance of striking within a roughly football-field-size area.

But the US has other MIRV-capable nuclear weapons in its arsenal today.

One is the Trident II ballistic missile, which gets launched from a submarine and can carry up to a dozen nuclear warheads. Another option is the Minuteman III ICBM, which is silo-launched and can carry three warheads.

Arms control treaties have since reduced the numbers of warheads in these weapons — Trident II's carry up to five, Minuteman III's just one — and retired the Peacekeeper.

Today, there are still about 15,000 nuclear weapons deployed, in storage, or awaiting dismantlement, with more than 90% held by the US and Russia.

Cold War 2.0?

trump

Wright said Putin's recent statements and the similarly heated comments and policy made by President Donald Trump echo rhetoric that fueled nuclear arms build-up during the Cold War era.

"What's discouraging is that, at the end of the Cold War, everyone was trying to de-MIRV" — or reduce the numbers of warheads per missile — he said.

Removing warheads helped calm US-Russia tensions and reduce the risk of preemptive nuclear strikes, either intentional or accidental, Wright said. Russia's move to deploy new weapons with multiple warheads, then, is risky and escalatory.

"One of the reasons you might want to MIRV is if you're facing ballistic missile defenses, and Putin talked about that," Wright said, noting that the US has helped build up European anti-missile defenses in recent years. "The clear response is to upgrade your offensive capabilities."

He added that Russia's move also shouldn't be surprising in the context of history: After George W. Bush withdrew the US from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, a Russian general told the New York Times the move "will alter the nature of the international strategic balance in freeing the hands of a series of countries to restart an arms buildup."

The charged statements of President Trump, who has called for a new arms race, have done little to reverse that course.

In fact, the Trump Administration plans to expand a Obama-era nuclear weapons modernization program. Over 30 years, the effort could cost US taxpayers more than $1.7 trillion and introduce smaller "tactical" nuclear weapons that experts fear might make the use of nukes common.

This story was published on March 1, 2018, at 5:59 p.m. ET and has been updated with new information.

SEE ALSO: These maps show how much damage a North Korean thermonuclear weapon could do to major American cities

DON'T MISS: If a nuclear weapon is about to explode, here's what a safety expert says you can do to survive

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THE AI DISRUPTION BUNDLE: The guide to understanding how artificial intelligence is impacting the world (AMZN, AAPL, GOOGL)

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 12:04 PM PST

global ai commerce financing trend

This is a preview of a research report bundle from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

Artificial intelligence (AI) isn't a part of the future of technology. AI is the future of technology.

Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have even publicly debated whether or not that will turn out to be a good thing.

Voice assistants like Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa have become more and more prominent in our lives, and that will only increase as they learn more skills.

These voice assistants are set to explode as more devices powered by AI enter the market. Most of the major technology players have some sort of smart home hub, usually in the form of a smart speaker. These speakers, like the Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod, are capable of communicating with a majority of WiFi-enabled devices throughout the home.

While AI is having an enormous impact on individuals and the smart home, perhaps its largest impact can be felt in the e-commerce space. In the increasingly cluttered e-commerce space, personalization is one of the key differentiators retailers can turn towards to stand out to consumers. In fact, retailers that have implemented personalization strategies see sales gains of 6-10%, at a rate two to three times faster than other retailers, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group.

This can be accomplished by leveraging machine learning technology to sift through customer data to present the relevant information in front of that consumer as soon as they hit the page.

With hundreds of hours of research condensed into three in-depth reports, BI Intelligence is here to help get you caught up on what you need to know on how AI is disrupting your business or your life.

Below you can find more details on the three reports that make up the AI Disruption Bundle, including proprietary insights from the 16,000-member BI Insiders Panel:

AI Banking Cover

AI in Banking and Payments

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most commonly referenced terms by financial institutions (FIs) and payments firms when describing their vision for the future of financial services.

AI can be applied in almost every area of financial services, but the combination of its potential and complexity has made AI a buzzword, and led to its inclusion in many descriptions of new software, solutions, and systems.

This report cuts through the hype to offer an overview of different types of AI, and where they have potential applications within banking and payments. It also emphasizes which applications are most mature, provides recommendations of how FIs should approach using the technology, and offers examples of where FIs and payments firms are already leveraging AI. The report draws on executive interviews BI Intelligence conducted with leading financial services providers, such as Bank of America, Capital One, and Mastercard, as well as top AI vendors like Feedzai, Expert System, and Kasisto.

AI Supply Chain

AI in Supply Chain and Logistics

Major logistics providers have long relied on analytics and research teams to make sense of the data they generate from their operations.

AI’s ability to streamline so many supply chain and logistics functions is already delivering a competitive advantage for early adopters by cutting shipping times and costs. A cross-industry study on AI adoption conducted in early 2017 by McKinsey found that early adopters with a proactive AI strategy in the transportation and logistics sector enjoyed profit margins greater than 5%. Meanwhile, respondents in the sector that had not adopted AI were in the red.

However, these crucial benefits have yet to drive widespread adoption. Only 21% of the transportation and logistics firms in McKinsey’s survey had moved beyond the initial testing phase to deploy AI solutions at scale or in a core part of their business. The challenges to AI adoption in the field of supply chain and logistics are numerous and require major capital investments and organizational changes to overcome.

explores the vast impact that AI techniques like machine learning will have on the supply chain and logistics space. We detail the myriad applications for these computational techniques in the industry, and the adoption of those different applications. We also share some examples of companies that have demonstrated success with AI in their supply chain and logistics operations. Lastly, we break down the many factors that are holding organizations back from implementing AI projects and gaining the full benefits of this disruptive technology.

AI in E-Commerce Report

ai ecommerce

One of retailers' top priorities is to figure out how to gain an edge over Amazon. To do this, many retailers are attempting to differentiate themselves by creating highly curated experiences that combine the personal feel of in-store shopping with the convenience of online portals.

These personalized online experiences are powered by artificial intelligence (AI). This is the technology that enables e-commerce websites to recommend products uniquely suited to shoppers, and enables people to search for products using conversational language, or just images, as though they were interacting with a person.

Using AI to personalize the customer journey could be a huge value-add to retailers. Retailers that have implemented personalization strategies see sales gains of 6-10%, a rate two to three times faster than other retailers, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG). It could also boost profitability rates 59% in the wholesale and retail industries by 2035, according to Accenture.

This report illustrates the various applications of AI in retail and use case studies to show how this technology has benefited retailers. It assesses the challenges that retailers may face as they implement AI, specifically focusing on technical and organizational challenges. Finally, the report weighs the pros and cons of strategies retailers can take to successfully execute AI technologies in their organization.

LIMITED-TIME OFFER:

Access the three in-depth reports referenced above today when you claim our exclusive AI Disruption Bundle. By purchasing the full bundle today you will SAVE 33% 0ff list price! But act now, as this is a limited-time offer.  
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MoviePass' CEO explains why a 'small percentage' of accounts were terminated, and how to make sure it won't happen to you (HMNY)

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 11:22 AM PST

Moviepass

  • MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe explained why a "small percentage" of MoviePass subscribers were terminated in the beginning of February.
  • Lowe addressed the customer service issues the company has been dealing with since its gigantic increase in subscribers.


In the beginning of February, a “small percentage” of MoviePass subscribers were startled to find an email in their inboxes from the app announcing their accounts had been terminated. The reason: They had allegedly violated the company’s terms of service.

This move led to a slew of complaints on social media by those who received the email, and many stories from those who claimed MoviePass had canceled their subscriptions without proper cause.

Since then, Business Insider has received over a dozen emails from customers who believe they should not have lost the service. Some said they had spent hours trying to get through to a customer service agent to plead their case, only to be told they either had violated the terms of service and nothing could be done, or that their request to be reactivated would be sent to another department. This led to days of waiting for the customers to learn their fate.

So why did MoviePass delete accounts, and what do customers need to do to make sure they never get flagged by the app?

Business Insider had a phone call with MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe to get answers.

Trying to kick out those that are taking advantage of MoviePass

Lowe said MoviePass started terminating accounts after it found a group of repeat offenders who consistently violated MoviePass' terms of service. The violations were found by a loss prevention team Lowe hired, and included users checking in for a basic 2D ticket but then getting a 3D, RealD, or IMAX ticket; using MoviePass to obtain movie-theater gift cards; or buying concessions along with a ticket, according to Lowe.

Lowe said these overcharges “cost a lot of money” for MoviePass to cover.

moviepass CEO mitch loweThe reason why the MoviePass MasterCard is able to buy more than a 2D movie ticket, Lowe explained, is because MoviePass always keeps more than a 2D ticket price on the card just in case a movie theater suddenly raises the price. That way the MoviePass customer won’t get shut out of a movie they are allowed to see with the app.

“We’re trying to run a business, we offer a great service at an amazing value, and you have a small percentage of people who are taking advantage of us to the detriment of our customers who are enjoying the service,” Lowe told Business Insider.

Lowe pointed out that MoviePass even sent out a warning email a month ago to some of the customers who were part of the group of accounts terminated in the beginning of February. The warning said they had been violating the terms of service and if they continued to do so, their accounts would be canceled.

However, Lowe did admit that upon further review, MoviePass found not all of those accounts were terminated due to the fault of the customers. The aftermath has highlighted that MoviePass needs to have a better relationship with movie theaters and improve its customer service.

Making inroads with movie theaters and winning back customers

A majority of the MoviePass customers who contacted Business Insider had similar theories for why their accounts were flagged: They all bought tickets at the box office (rather than a kiosk) and a theater staff member did not know how to properly run the transaction.

This has occurred in numerous ways. One example given was the box office combining the charge of the MoviePass subscriber and non-MoviePass patron with them, causing the MoviePass subscriber’s account to look like it went over its allowed total. Another was a situation when the theater’s box office was also the concession stand, and the theater staff combined both the MoviePass charge and the concession.

Some theaters that accept MoviePass have caught onto this happening and have taken steps to better educate their staff and patrons.

In fact, one customer sent Business Insider a photo of the sign their local theater has put up to help remind MoviePass customers how to correctly use it.

moviepass“I know for a fact theaters are taking advantage of the customer in this scenario,” Lowe said.

Lowe stressed that despite having a MoviePass subscription — which means with the service you get to see one movie a day per month — you should look at your theater receipt to make sure your charge is done properly by your theater.

And to help theaters better understand how to accommodate MoviePass subscribers, Lowe said he'd hired on four additional staff members to MoviePass' movie theater relations team. He also said MoviePass would have a presence at April’s CinemaCon, the annual movie theater convention, in hopes of improving its relationship with theater owners.

“We need to do a good job in better communicating to the exhibitor community so they can help us help their customers,” Lowe said.

But what happens if a MoviePass subscriber realizes they were overcharged? What are they supposed to do so MoviePass doesn’t terminate their account?

The logical answer would be to call MoviePass customer service, but since the app changed its price plan to $10 a month, its customer service has been overwhelmed by new subscribers. If you take a glance at the MoviePass social media accounts, you will notice they are flooded with complaints from subscribers who can't get through to anyone in customer service.

However, Lowe is confident that is about to improve.

“We are not fulfilling quickly the customer service demand and a lot of that is because we were not working with the right provider nor had the right team in place,” he said. “And we have just recently put in a new leader in that group and brought in a new provider that is essentially starting this week. We’re making some big improvements.”

Lowe said the company’s revamp of its customer service includes having over 100 full-time customer service reps on the team.

“It’s definitely not something I’m proud of,” Lowe said of the customer service woes. “It’s just not been as easy as throwing bodies at it. It’s a combination of a lot of different things. But I feel very good about our new direction and its ability to create a much better experience for our customers.”

And it starts with reactivating the customers who had their accounts deleted but had legitimate excuses for charges larger than their allotted amount per-movie.

Lowe said that roughly 10% of the members terminated in early February have been reinstated.  

SEE ALSO: The director of Netflix's latest blockbuster movie, "Mute," breaks down 4 memorable scenes in the sci-fi thriller

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THE MOBILE CARRIER LANDSCAPE: How AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint are overcoming slow user growth amid a fierce price war

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 11:03 AM PST

bii big four carrier revenue

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

It hasn't been smooth sailing for telecoms in recent years. Native voice and messaging services, which once accounted for the vast majority of telecoms' subscriber revenue, are struggling to compete with over-the-top (OTT) apps, like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Viber — and they're losing.

A fierce and ongoing price war among the Big Four carriers is only compounding the pressure telecoms are facing. The consequent resurgence of unlimited data plans is straining carriers' networks, and revenues are suffering.

Nevertheless, telecoms are now better positioned than ever to play a bigger role in their subscribers' lives. Consumers spend more than half of their digital time on smartphones, compared with a third on PCs. This shift has effectively placed telecoms at the front door of consumers' digital experience.

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we examine where the wireless industry stands as a result of the price war and uptick in data demand from consumers. We also look at how technological advancements and the adoption of new product lines could incentivize the next wave of revenue growth for telecoms. Finally, we explore potential barriers to carriers' growth, and examine which of the Big Four carriers are poised to lead the pack.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Native voice and messaging services, which once accounted for the vast majority of telecoms' subscriber revenue, are struggling to compete with over-the-top apps.
  • A fierce ongoing price war among the Big Four is only compounding the pressure telecoms are facing.
  • Still, consumers' growing dependence on smartphones and data means telecoms are now better positioned than ever to play a bigger role in their subscribers' lives.
  • As digital continues to reshape the wireless industry, telecoms are preparing for the next wave of disruption, including connected cars, augmented reality, and 5G.
  • Despite a plethora of opportunities, several existing and emerging threats could impede telecoms' growth and expansion efforts.

In full, the report:

  • Describes how the US wireless carrier is shaping up.
  • Explores the effect of the fierce pricing wars taking place, and the methods carriers are using to retain their subscribers.
  • Highlights the new technology carriers are using to drive growth and revenue. 
  • Looks at the potential barriers that could limit carriers' growth and examines who's best positioned to come out on top.

To get the full report, subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now

You can also purchase and download the full report from our research store.

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'They seem to actually care if we make money': Media companies are falling back in love with Twitter

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 09:36 AM PST

Screen Shot 2018 02 26 at 4.10.18 PM

  • In light of Facebook's algorithm shift, media companies increasingly see Twitter as a more attractive distribution partner.
  • Not only is Twitter well suited to news content, but it's seen as a rare tech platform that seeks equitable deals with publishers and understands their business.
  • Still, media executives are somewhat concerned that their Twitter champion — former COO Anthony Noto — has departed. They're hoping his pro-media strategy remains.


As many media and marketing executives were in the midst of navigating their way home from last month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the news broke: Facebook was dropping the hammer on publishers by de-emphasizing what it considered "passive" content.

Almost immediately, some publishers heard from senior Twitter leadership. Their message: We're there for you.

Like an overlooked but secretly beautiful best friend in a 1980s teen movie, media companies, particularly news brands, are starting to realize that even as they've chased Facebook's love, Twitter's been right their under their noses the whole time.

And while every digital platform has its strengths and weaknesses, Twitter is seen as a rare Silicon Valley company that understands and even – gasp – likes the media and advertising business.

Increasingly, media companies say that Twitter has found a sweet spot as a true programmer with a unique strength in live video. And more important, it's a reliable revenue producer known for making balanced, high-upside revenue deals. That stands in stark contrast with Facebook, which has angered many in the media industry by constantly jerking around partners — or failing to treat content companies as partners at all.

While some in media worry they've just lost their top champion at Twitter in recently departed COO Anthony Noto, who was named CEO of the digital bank Sofi after CES, most are cautiously optimistic while still eyeing most overtures from tech platforms with a wary eye.

Starting to build a sizable web-video lineup

Last spring, Twitter delivered a big sales presentation during the Newfronts, an annual week-plus parade of pitches from web-video-content companies seeking advertisers, for the first time. It's meant to be digital media's answer to the broadcast networks' yearly rollout of their fall shows for the ad community.

When Twitter's name popped up on the Newfront schedule, some snickered. Does that mean the NewFronts are over?

Yet Twitter's video output and list of partners continues to surge. Yes, there are plenty of random live feeds from professional lacrosse games and the like. But over the past few months the company has signed deals with Time Inc. (now part of Meredith Corp.) to host PeopleTV, as well as Bloomberg's ambitious live news channel TicToc. According to Digiday that network is already pulling in 750,000 viewers a day.

Those projects join the likes of fast-growing business network Cheddar, a Twitter stalwart, as well as BuzzFeed's daily morning show "AM to DM." "They know they have something with live," said one media source. "It plays to their strengths."

Overall, Twitter says it streamed over 1,100 live events during the fourth quarter of last year, while announcing 22 new live-streaming deals. Already this year, the company has launched or announced 20 more such partnerships, said Matt Derella, Twitter's vice president of global revenue and operations. "The quarter's only half over, so that really signals the momentum we have," he told Business Insider.

'They seem to care if we actually make money'

Among a sea of content deals with giant platforms that don't always feel favorable to those that make content, Twitter's approach stands out for being deliberately equitable — particularly compared to Facebook's take-it-or-leave it negotiating style and string of fits and starts (see: Facebook Live really matters. No, it doesn't).

Of course, every content deal between media companies and tech platforms is different. As insiders explained, some content pacts resemble TV in their structure, in that the tech company pays a set per-episode-fee upfront.

This theoretically allows a media company to aim for a higher level of production — but the profit margins are thin and the upside limited (especially if the platform secures ownership of the show), insiders say.

On the other end of the spectrum, say media executives, are revenue-share deals without any guarantees. These arrangements have been common on Facebook, which has cycled through various ad initiatives for video (from "suggested videos" to mid-roll ads on Facebook Watch).

"It's basically, cross your fingers and hope the model kicks in," said one digital-media veteran.

Twitter has found a solid hybrid model. The company will partially fund some projects upfront, say insiders, so that media partners can aim high in terms of quality.

But then, media firms can make a lot more money if their shows succeed, since they often control future ad sales. "There is still plenty of upside," said a top media executive.

As one media executive put it, "They seem to care if we actually make money." Not to mention that the media and ads business is still driven by relationships, which Twitter seems to care about.

"What I've found from Twitter, especially through launching TicToc, is that there is an openness at the senior level to work with us, collaborate with us to do something bold," said M. Scott Havens, global head of digital, Bloomberg Media. "There was support throughout the entire process and an openness to create and build a product that is mutually beneficial for both sides."

unnamed 3

Twitter's Derella said that approach comes from working with content partners on ad revenue deals for over five years, starting with ad-supported college-football highlights delivered to Twitter via ESPN in 2012.

"We are very much in tune with what their needs are," said Derella of media partners. "We want to help them grow their reach and help them build their business. We are laser-focused on that."

Last week, Twitter announced that payouts to publishers on Twitter were up 60% in 2017.

Over time "we've aimed to be fair and rational in our deals," he added. "That's served us incredibly well."

Live video content "has become foundational to the overall growth Twitter has enjoyed as we've transformed our company," he said.

There are plenty of other options, and lots of uncertainty

Of course Twitter is far from the only game in town. And it's user base, while sizable at 300 million monthly users, has seemingly plateaued, and is not nearly at large as Facebook, YouTube, or even Instagram.

If anything is certain when it comes to which tech giant is viewed as best catering to media companies, it's that things change fast. For example, on Friday, Bloomberg reported that YouTube was sending mixed signals about its original content strategy. Meanwhile, Snap is ramping up its video-series output.

Regardless, the fallout from Facebook's algorithm shift has been evident. Witness Vox Media's decision to lay off 50 staffers last week, which was driven by a shift from news-feed video.

At the same time, while Facebook's vacillations have infuriated many, it continues to ink programming deals for Facebook Watch. And digital publishing executives rave about Instagram's potential for content.

What's helping Twitter right now, in the eyes of media executives, is that it's made for news. While it hasn't been spared by trolls or fake news, its audience is generally there to read and watch, not see baby pictures.

"It's a better place for content in the first place," said one media veteran.

Discovery is a obstacle

Here's a challenge nearly every Twitter media partner brings up: discovery. With all these original live shows flooding people's already noisy Twitter feeds, it's not easy for people to discover these shows. Of course, the same could be said for finding shows on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or anyplace else on the web.

Media partners and Twitter both have to work to make sure that consumers make watching live shows a habit, and not a happenstance.

One key tactic so far, according to media executives: featuring people with big social media followings on your show. It's a strategy you see BuzzFeed and Cheddar employing all the time.

amtodm

Derella said that Twitter is actively working on helping people find live videos by promoting them in prominent sections of the Twitter product, including its "Happening Now" feature, which showcases prominent tweets about events like the Olympics, and also it Explore tab.

Over time, the hope is that each individual sees more of the kind of shows he or she will be interested in, rather than everyone getting the same flood of videos. "We wanted to develop a very personalized experience," he said. "That's the organizing principle."

What happens after Noto?

Former COO Noto was seen as Twitter's big dealmaker. He'd personally connect with media company CEOs and business-development executives. And he'd show his face at major industry events like CES and the Cannes advertising festival.

Now that he's gone, media executives are hoping that Twitter's strategy stays intact. While it's hard to get a read on CEO Jack Dorsey — who most ad-industry executives don't know — insiders are cautiously optimistic.

"That team is still intact," said a partner.

Todd Swidler, who leads Twitter's live-video team, is well regarded. When Noto announced his move, the company said that Derella will continue to lead Twitter's ad-sales efforts while Kay Madati, who Noto hired last year is in place to oversee content deals. Both should be in contact with media partners regularly.

Either way, Twitter's place in the web-video ecosystem appears solid. The company should have lots to talk about at its second NewFront event in May.

"It's not perfect," said a partner. "But it's worth it. You feel like you're in it together [when you work with Twitter] and the opportunity is much bigger because of it. There is a lot of money there."

Join the conversation about this story »

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Comcast's $30.7 billion bid for Sky is a bet on the past just as Disney chases the future

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 08:37 AM PST

Brian roberts

  • Disney wants to buy much of Fox's content assets to bolster its attack on Netflix.
  • Now Comcast may throw a wrench into things by trying to snag the UK-based pay TV service Sky, which Fox has long been after.
  • There's a lot of uncertainty regarding these potential deals. But what's clear is that these media giants are using two very different strategies when it comes to facing the challenge presented by streaming and Netflix.


Remember that shocker of an announcement a few months ago that Disney was set to buy a chunk of 21st Century Fox's assets for over $50 billion? That's already old news as media 'Game of Thrones' escalates.

Comcast on Tuesday jumped in with a bid to buy the UK pay TV service Sky – which is supposed to be part of Disney's acquisition. And it's a better deal for Sky on paper, with Comcast offering a higher price.

What's going on here? Isn't the media industry trying to combat cord-cutting and looking to take on Netflix? Isn't the future about streaming and not satellite TV?

That's where all the consumer trends are pointing. The number of cable homes is shrinking. Netflix keeps adding subscribers. That's why the two diverging strategies of these media goliaths are striking:

  • Disney seems to have come to grips with the reality that the media business will never go back to the way it was, so it's making the riskier move of disrupting its own business. That's why it's trying to stock up on content for a direct-to-consumer streaming service that bypasses the cable model.
  • Meanwhile, Comcast seems to be buying time, by trying to ring every dollar it can out of the legacy pay TV model, while hoping that model hangs on a bit longer.

Sky helps Comcast hold on to the cable cash cow longer

"The Comcast Sky deal is about protecting your existing property, while buying more subscribers and all the carriage and subs fees that go with that," said Elgin Thompson, managing director at Digital Capital Advisors. "It's a bit of an old world mentality."

For the time being, owning Sky would get Comcast into markets it isn't very strong in, like say Italy, and would help it lock up key sports rights – since Sky recently inked a deal to broadcast Premier League soccer by spending less than had been anticipated.

That's short term insurance against cord-cutting, which is occurring less rapidly in Europe, said Alice Enders, head of research at the UK-based media research firm Enders Analysis.  "So Comcast has estimated that, 'If we get Sky, we can say that 25% of our revenue is now international.' Their story becomes one of international diversification, and getting  away from relying on the US." 

"Sky helps them get more international, and gets them into more sports beyond the big three or four in the US," said Thompson. "So there's some logic there."

AT&T/Time Warner kick started this mania. And it's uncertainty hangs over everything

AT&T's proposed acquisition of Time Warner was supposed to reset the media industry's chess board. But now the deal is being held up in federal court and may not be decided until halfway through 2018.

What happens with AT&T likely effects every other potential move yet to play out in the radically reshaping industry. 

"Most companies in this space made money in the traditional way," said Jeff Green, CEO of the ad tech firm The Trade Desk. "They sold shows and networks to distributors and they sold ads. And that system has run TV for 75 years." 

Selling shows to Netflix became a nice way for TV companies to make extra money. Then it got too big too fast, and became a threat.

"So these companies said, 'Let’s not do that anymore.' Now everybody is trying to own distribution. That's what AT&T started. And what the Sky deal represents is Comcast wanting to be even closer to distribution."

Black Panther

For Disney, it's all about Netflix

Disney's interest in Fox is all about building up its content library to bolster its coming Netflix killer – a direct-to-consumer streaming service that should feature the best of Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, and all of Fox Studios content (X-Men, Avatar, and so-on).

"The core deal logic in Fox is for Disney to get studio its assets," said Enders. "That’s what they really want. Fox wants Disney more than Sky."

Thompson is less than bullish on Disney's attempt to blunt Netflix. "They are so far ahead that no one is going to catch them," he said. "In the meantime, they can simply find all the disgruntled talent and wait for their contracts to end."

Comcast and Sky is easier for the regulators to swallow

As Enders noted, Fox has been trying to purchase the remainder of Sky that it doesn't own for some time. And the deal is being held up – not for competitive reasons, but political ones, with the small matter of the phone hacking scandal that rocked the UK a few years ago hanging over the deal. 

"Fox can’t do whatever it feels like," she said. "So the question is how far Disney is prepared to go to get Sky." She theorized that both deals could happen in some fashion: Comcast could end up with Sky, while Disney could take home a smaller pile of Fox assets. Or Disney could step up its bid for Fox and/or Sky.

It's not out of the question that down the road, she said, that Comcast could try to buy Time Warner if AT&T ends up losing its bid. Or, as Thompson suggested, Comcast could try its own Netflix competitor using all of NBCUniversal's assets.

"There's a lot more reel left in this movie," Enders said. "In the meantime, chaos will probably ensue."

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CITI: These 14 companies are ripe to be broken up — and history shows a 'highly effective strategy' for investors

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 08:19 AM PST

Lumberjack

Sometimes it makes more sense for a big company to break itself up. 

It's especially true when one segment of the business is underperforming. And when managements reach this decision — or are forced by activist shareholders — they provide an opening for investors to increase the valuation of the spun-off entities. 

"Spin-offs are good news for shareholders," Robert Buckland, an equity strategist at Citi, said in a note on Wednesday.

"Buying shares in companies that spin-off assets has been a highly effective strategy. Citi analysis shows that historically, both the parent and the spun-off company outperform in the year after the announcement."

Many spin-off candidates start outperforming before the announcements, Buckland said, as investors speculate on the news. 

Citi's analysts identified 14 US companies that could unlock more value in a spin-off, mostly in the industrials and information technology sectors. Here are the stocks to keep an eye on, ranked in ascending order by market cap. 

SEE ALSO: Global stocks end a winning streak that's never been seen before

NuStar GP Holdings

Ticker: NSH

Market Cap: $500 million

Sector: Energy

Comment: "The NuStar complex is expected to merge the two publicly traded vehicles, cut their distributions materially, and divest less core assets to raise capital to fund their capital expenditure requirements in 2018."



SemGroup

Ticker: SEMG

Market Cap: $1.8 billion

Sector: Energy

Comment: "After a series of large strategic acquisitions and divestitures in the last year, SemGroup is evaluating the sale of SemGas and SemLogistics in the near term and may consider the spin-off of their Canadian subsidiary named SemCAMS in the future after it grows further."



Orascom Construction

Ticker: ORSCY

Market Cap: $1.9 billion

Sector: Industrials

Comment: "The company has a valuable, overlooked 50% stake in a Belgium-based contractor which has a diversified business model with consistent dividend stream. While Orascom’s management explored the sale of this stake in the past, we believe it is still deeply undervalued."



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Bill Gates' wicked sense of humor really shines on Reddit — see for yourself

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 08:00 AM PST

Screen Shot 2018 03 02 at 2.26.35 PM

Every year since 2013, Microsoft cofounder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has held a Reddit AMA (Ask me Anything) session, where anybody on the planet can ask him a question directly. 

His sessions garner hundreds of questions across thousands of comments, too many for even him to answer. Gates' answers are sometimes educational, often insightful, and always interesting

There's another constant, too: Every year, Bill Gates posts a new picture or video of himself to the thread as prove that it's really, actually him taking questions. And the man goes all out, showing the world his very particular sense of humor.

This week, Gates kept up the tradition with a short cartoon of all the activities he wouldn't be doing on the day of the question session, and asking Reddit a question of his own.

From 2013 to today, here's how Bill Gates slayed them in the aisles on Reddit. Just don't forget to tip your waiter. 

SEE ALSO: Bill Gates says cryptocurrency is 'a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way'

In 2013, Bill Gates held his first Reddit AMA. For his first time out, it was a pretty stripped-down affair, showing off a drawing of himself in the style of "Snoo," Reddit's mascot.



Things picked up a little bit in 2014, when he one-upped himself by meeting Snoo in person.



That AMA was also way more popular, prompting Gates to post a meme of himself as Austin Powers, which there's an explanation for, I swear.

Once upon a time, Bill Gates and then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer performed as Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, respectively, in a video for Microsoft employees. It's good to know that Gates can laugh at himself.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

JPMorgan wants to become the Amazon of Wall Street (AMZN, JPM)

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 07:38 AM PST

Jamie Dimon

  • If Goldman Sachs wants to be the Google of Wall Street, it seems that JPMorgan wants to be Amazon. 
  • At an investor day presentation, CFO Marianne Lake set out the bank's "Digital Everywhere" strategy, while CEO Jamie Dimon mentioned Amazon Prime as a model for JPMorgan's banking efforts.
  • "We are already deeply embedded in our customers lives at a scale and a frequency that we believe is unmatched," Lake said. 
  • JPMorgan's ability to implement this digital strategy across multiple business lines, many of which just happen to be market share leaders, has the potential to reshape the entire industry.


"The first opportunity we have to delight or to upset a client is when they walk through the door either physically or virtually."

Sounds like a tech executive, right? Jeff Bezos even? The Amazon boss often talks about delighting customers, after all, although until recently the ecommerce giant didn't really have doors to physically walk through

But no, that's not a tech founder, or a retail CEO. It's Marianne Lake, the CFO of JPMorgan Chase.

In an investor day presentation Tuesday February 27, Lake went through the Wall Street giant's "Digital Everywhere" strategy. And later, JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon, who's teamed up with Bezos and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway on a healthcare initiative, discussed Amazon Prime. 

Taken together, the comments hint at JPMorgan's vision of the future of banking. 

A generational shift

There's a generational shift taking place, according to Lake. Customers are demanding digital capabilities in all their interactions with the firm. "Think streaming films versus DVDs," she said. "Banking is no exception."

Screen Shot 2018 02 27 at 3.51.08 PM

Now there are drawbacks to this shift, of course. The movie business used to make good money out of DVDs. Streaming films has been a more challenging business. For Wall Street, it means margins are likely to be compressed, meaning less money per trade.

"Jeff Bezos says 'Your margin is my opportunity,'" Dimon said in the Q&A portion of investor day. "You know, that's called competition. And so some of it gets passed on to the customer in terms of lower prices and lower spreads."

But there are clear benefits to these digital relationships. 

"They create loyalty, they give us more shots on goal to deepen relationships," Lake said. "This drives higher volume for us, and leveraging our scale, that higher volume is much more profitable."

This shift is playing out across JPMorgan's business, according to Lake's presentation. For example:

  • Consumer banking: 57% of millennials would change their bank for a better tech platform, according to JPMorgan. On the flip side, retention rates are 10 points higher for "digitally engaged households," and card spending is 118% higher.
  • Corporate banking: 76% of companies cite digital capabilities as “Highly” or “Very” important in selecting a banking partner, according to research from Greenwich Associates. 
  • Investing: 85% of wealthy individuals use financial apps, and yet less than 10% of Chase customers today have investments with the firm. 
  • Trading: According to a JPMorgan survey of institutional investors, 61% of FX traders are extremely likely to use a mobile app to trade in 2018. Meanwhile, 93% of JPMorgan's top 1,000 clients use the JPMorgan Markets platform, with 30% growth in users accessing pre-trade information on the platform, and 60% growth in post-trade analysis on the platform. According to Lake, nearly half of JPMorgan's execution clients are reading the firm's research on the platform.

"We are already deeply embedded in our customers lives at a scale and a frequency that we believe is unmatched," Lake said. 

Screen Shot 2018 02 27 at 4.00.17 PM

Amazon Prime for banking

It also allows JPMorgan to take a different approach when rolling out new products. Dimon cited the example of Amazon Prime going into movies, likening it to how JPMorgan would roll out online investing. 

"Who thought Jeff Bezos would go into movies?" Dimon asked the audience at the investor day. "And he just gives it away for free to Prime because Prime pays for itself and he's just trying to make you a happy Prime customer."

"Well we do a little bit of the same by giving a lot of things away for free as part a package. We look at the price of the whole package, not necessarily the products."

He said: 

"That's why when we do online investing, we're going to be thinking about 'How are we going to add that to the product set in a simple way ... that the customer wants, so that they'll say 'I love this.'' Remember, if you're a great client, we can do it for free."

Now, JPMorgan's not the only bank thinking this way, of course. Goldman Sachs has said it wants to be to risk what Google is to search, for example. And McKinsey has highlighted the risks to traditional finance posed by so-called platform companies like Amazon, Alibaba, and Rakuten.

But JPMorgan's ability to implement these digital shifts across multiple business lines, many of which just happen to be market share leaders, has the potential to reshape the entire industry. JPMorgan might have the ability to "do it for free" for great clients, but many competitors won't. 

"Digital capabilities will really differentiate players in our industry in the coming years. And in a digital world, we are always open for our customers, continuously, 24/7," Lake said.

"We do have a complete strategy, a plan for every customer type, for all of their needs, in each business and around the world," she added. 

Sound familiar?

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NOW WATCH: Here's why the recent stock market sell-off could save us from a repeat of "Black Monday"

Amazon's $1 billion acquisition of the doorbell-camera startup Ring is the company doing what it does best — and it should terrify every other retailer (AMZN)

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 07:30 AM PST

Amazon Ring

  • Amazon is acquiring Ring, a startup that makes smart doorbells with cameras.
  • This gives Amazon an extra leg up on smart-home tech and complements existing services that make ordering items from its website easier.
  • This synergy is what the e-commerce giant does best, and it's a signal to other retailers that it will continue to innovate in this space.

Amazon is acquiring Ring, a startup that specializes in smart-camera-equipped doorbells for dwellings. 

At a reported acquisition price north of $1 billion, Ring provides another suite of in-home smarts that both complement and extend Amazon's capability. It also fits in well with Amazon's existing obsession with adding value to its core online-shopping service.

When the company first announced the launch of its in-home delivery service, Amazon Key, it had developed only the camera for it. It had to partner with existing smart-lock makers to create the kits it is currently selling to interested customers. 

But Ring's doorbells are equipped with cameras and audio equipment, and they can easily work with voice-enabled smart-home devices to add to that experience and take it to the next level.

Alerts could tell you when the camera notices a delivery person outside your house, and an extra camera could provide more security for the whole operation. You can also chat with the delivery people themselves and answer their doorbell ring remotely. From there, you could tell them to just leave the package, or take it around the side of the house for safe-keeping. 

All of this could get also benefit from facial-recognition software, which it looks like Ring is developing.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hinted at acquisitions like this one in the company's most recent earnings release.

"Our 2017 projections for Alexa were very optimistic, and we far exceeded them. We don't see positive surprises of this magnitude very often — expect us to double down," Bezos said in a prepared statement.

As Amazon becomes more central to the burgeoning smart-home market, moves that fuse tech and retail will only become more important for the company. 

"The trifecta of Alexa, Echo, and Prime should enable Amazon to further penetrate the consumer, expand Prime membership and retail spending patterns, while widening the company's consumer competitive moat with the Ring acquisition putting further fuel in this smart home engine for Amazon," GBH Insights analyst Daniel Ives wrote in a note to investors.

Ring gives Amazon a boost to both its still-central e-commerce business and its burgeoning smart-home business. Amazon did this before with Alexa and Echo, and it's continuing that trend with Ring.

That synergy is Amazon doing what it does best — bringing together two seemingly disparate sectors in new and interesting ways to provide a competitive edge and new services for consumers.

SEE ALSO: Amazon's futuristic, cashierless stores could be its 'Trojan horse' to conquer traditional retail

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12 big blockbuster movies you may not realize are on Netflix — and a few on Hulu too

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 07:10 AM PST

rogue one

  • Netflix's movie catalog may have decreased in recent years but it still offers plenty of blockbuster movies to choose from.
  • Hulu also offers worthy crowd-pleasers you may not know are available to stream.

While Netflix's catalog of movies has decreased dramatically in recent years to focus on television, the streaming service still offers plenty of big, blockbuster movies that users may not know is available. 

From recent hits like "Beauty and the Beast" and "Doctor Strange" to classic action-adventure flicks like "Armageddon" and "Men In Black," Netflix still has worthy big-screen crowd-pleasers ready for audiences to stream at their convenience. (Thanks in large part to its deal with Disney.)

Even Hulu offers a number of blockbuster choices, including the entire "Indiana Jones" series.

Here are 19 blockbuster movies you may not know are on Netflix and Hulu:

SEE ALSO: Netflix's new reality special 'The Push' is a disturbing psychological experiment that tries to push a contestant to murder

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"

Available to stream on Netflix

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is the sequel to 2014's "Guardians of the Galaxy," which brought the Marvel Cinematic Universe off Earth and to new worlds. "Vol. 2" pushes the team to their limits with a more personal story, as Star-Lord, played by Chris Pratt, discovers who is real father is: Ego, the all-powerful being played by Kurt Russell. 



"Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"

Available to stream on Netflix

Netflix only recently picked up the first film in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and if you have three hours to spare, you can re-visit Middle-Earth at your convenience. 



"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"

Available to stream on Netflix

If you're excited about "Solo: A Star Wars Story" in May, you may want to revisit the "Star Wars" franchise's first spin-off film, "Rogue One," which portrays the efforts of the Rebels to steal the Death Star plans immediately before the events of "A New Hope."



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Here's every weapon the US Army gives to its soldiers

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 07:03 AM PST

M249

It goes without saying that the US Army is continuously testing and adding new weapons to its arsenal.

For example, the Army recently began issuing its new M17 and M18 pistols to soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. At the same time, the sidearms are still not standard issue. 

While the Army continues to stay ahead of the game, it undoubtedly has a multitude of weapons for its soldiers. 

And we compiled a list of all these standard issue weapons operable by individual soldiers below, meaning that we didn't include, for example, the Javelin anti-tank missile system because it takes more than one person to operate, nor did we include nonstandard issue weapons.

Check them out:

SEE ALSO: 11 weapons used by Russia's elite Spetsnaz operators

M1911 pistol

The M1911 is a .45 caliber sidearm that the Army has used since World War I, and has even begun phasing out



M9 pistol

The Army started replacing the M1911 with the 9mm M9 in the mid-1980s.



M11 pistol

The M11 is another 9mm pistol that replaced the M1911, and is itself being replaced by the M17 and M18 pistols. 



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The 50 best computer science schools in the world

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 07:00 AM PST

Cambridge University Trinity College

A computer-science degree from one of the world's top higher education institutions can help graduates land their dreams job at companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, or Amazon.

But if your goal is to impress prospective employers, which university should you shoot for? Using the QS World University Rankings 2018, we took a look at the universities with the top computer science and information systems courses.

The QS University Rankings guide is one of the most reputable sources that students turn to when deciding which universities to apply to, and employers are also likely to refer to it when deciding which candidates to hire. It is based on academic reputation, employer reputation, and research impact. The full methodology can be read here.

We looked at the overall scores, which are out of 100. Take a look:

50. City University of Hong Kong

CUHK is a relatively young university, but it has improved steadily over the years.



49. Lomonosov Moscow State University

One of Russia's oldest institutions, which also ranks high in overall rankings.



48. Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Founded in 1896, the Chinese university Shanghai Jiao Tong University is one of the most prestigious universities in China.



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I flew in economy class on one of British Airways' busiest international routes — here's what it was like

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:39 AM PST

British Airways 777-200 at London Gatwick

  • With dozens of flights a day operated by several major airlines, the New York-London route is a high-traffic, competitive route.
  • British Airways, together with its joint venture partner American Airlines, is one of the highest-profile operators between the two major financial markets and vacation destinations.
  • I flew in British Airways' "World Traveler" economy-class cabin home from London in February to see what the experience was like.


When flying between the US and the UK, there is a gluttony of options available. Airlines representing the three major alliances (Oneworld, Star Alliance, and Sky Team) operate multiple flights a day between major cities, with some cities seeing dozens of flights a day.

The New York City–London route, one of the busiest in the world, sees around 30 commercial flights in each direction on an average weekday flown by US airlines including Delta, United, and American, and foreign carriers including the expected, like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, and the less expected, such as Norwegian Air Shuttle and Air India.

Among the many choices, though, the most prolific operators of the high-traffic route are arguably American Airlines and British Airways, with around 15 flights per day in each direction. Operating an antitrust-indemnified joint venture across the Atlantic (along with Spanish carrier Iberia), the two airlines operate virtually as one between the two cities.

When you search for flights between London and New York on either airline's website, you'll see flights operated by both carriers, virtually indistinguishable from each other on the results page.

That's how, after booking steeply discounted tickets through a British Airways flash sale, I found myself with a round trip between New York and London featuring both airlines.

My outbound flight was operated by American Airlines, and was an all-around pleasant trip, while my return was with British Airways departing from London's Gatwick airport.

I last few British Airways a few years ago on a 747-400 from London Heathrow, so I didn't have any real expectations — although I knew that the airline had just rolled out some awesome new catering on its long-haul flights.

Read on to see what I thought of my flight on British Airways, departing from London Gatwick at 4:55 p.m. for New York's JFK airport, operated by a 777-200.

SEE ALSO: I flew in economy class on one of American Airlines' busiest international routes — here's what it was like

We took the Thameslink train to Gatwick Airport and went to check our bags — and found a long, snaking queue at the long-haul check-in desk. There were only two agents working the non-first class area — it took us almost 45 minutes to get through the line. It's lucky that we arrived early!



Once through security, we headed to the No.1 Lounge — you can get access with the free Priority Pass membership that comes with some credit cards. The lounge is popular, which leads the staff to cap capacity sometimes. To make sure you can get in, you can reserve a spot online up to the day before your trip (although this costs £5 per person).



The lounge is comfortable with plenty of seating, fast Wi-Fi, snacks, and free drinks and some small plates — I ordered this Yorkshire pudding filled with roasted vegetables and chicken, which was tasty. Our gate was announced a little more than an hour before departure, so we finished up and meandered over, taking time to check out a few shops in the terminal.



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Spotify is building a firewall to keep its founders in control

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:38 AM PST

Daniel Ek Spotify CEO LeWeb

  • Spotify just filed the paperwork for its direct public listing.
  • Like Snap, Facebook, and other tech companies that have gone the traditional initial public offering route, Spotify engineered a firewall to ensure the founders stay in control.
  • Spotify has created a class of "beneficiary certificates" that carry voting power but no economic power.
  • Spotify has issued 379.2 million shares to founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzen, giving them over 80% of the voting power.

After a lengthy buildup, Spotify has finally filed for its direct public listing — the unorthodox process that circumvents the traditional Wall Street initial public offering process wherein banks are hired to find buyers for the shares.

Spotify plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker "SPOT," according to the company's F-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But once the shares are on the NYSE, technically anyone can buy them up. Spotify's founders, Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzen, have engineered a class of super shares to ensure they retain control of the company, according to the SEC filing. 

Spotify created a class of "beneficiary certificates" that carry voting power but zero economic power. They're worthless other than giving the holder one vote on company matters, and subject to certain exceptions, they will "automatically be canceled for no consideration in the case of sale or transfer of the ordinary share to which they are linked."

Up to 1.4 billion certificates can be issued to holders of ordinary shares, at a ratio of one to 20 per share, at the discretion of the board of directors.

Ek and Lorentzen, who already own a combined 38.9% of the ordinary shares, will each receive 10 beneficiary certificates for every ordinary share they own, for a total of 379.2 million. That gives them just over 80% of the voting power in the company. 

Spotify is taking a different route to going public, but just like high-profile tech IPOs such as Snap and Facebook, this measure effectively creates a firewall that keeps the founders in control, regardless of who buys up shares on the public markets. 

Spotify's beneficiary certificates will, in part, discourage any third-party from trying to buy up enough of the company to shake things up.

"The issuance of beneficiary certificates also may make it more difficult or expensive for a third party to acquire control of us without the approval of our founders," the filing reads.

The filing puts it in plain English — Ek and Lorentzen will essentially have total authority:

"As a result of this ownership or control of our voting securities, if our founders act together, they will have control over the outcome of substantially all matters submitted to our shareholders for approval, including the election of directors."

The board can issue more beneficiary certificates — there are more than 1 billion remaining from the total authorized amount — but, of course, Ek and Lorentzen sit on the board and control the voting power, so they'll have a say in that matter, too.

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The FCC's net-neutrality protections are about to disappear — but supporters are moving on multiple fronts to put them back in place (T, CMCSA)

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:30 AM PST

net neutrality

  • The Federal Communications Commission's new rules that do away with its net-neutrality protections officially take effect in April.
  • Net neutrality supporters are pushing on multiple fronts to block the FCC's action or reinstate the protections it previously guaranteed.
  • It's unlikely they'll stop the FCC's new anti-net neutrality rules from taking effect next month, but longer term, they have a shot at bringing back protections the rules offered.


The Federal Communications Commission's new rules eliminating its net-neutrality protections are set to take effect next month, but supporters of an open internet aren't giving up hope they can be restored — possibly even right away.

State officials, public-interest groups, and internet activists have launched lawsuits and public campaigns to try to reinstate net-neutrality protections. There's little chance they'll succeed before the end of April, when the FCC's anti-net neutrality regulations go into force, legal experts say. But net neutrality proponents have a shot at bringing back the protections in the future either via the courts or Congress, according to the experts.

Net neutrality is the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally, that internet service providers such as AT&T and Comcast should be barred from blocking, slowing down, or speeding up access to particular sites and services. The FCC rules guaranteeing it were designed to protect internet users' ability to access the online services of their choice and to prevent broadband providers from giving an unfair advantage to their own sites and services or to those of their paid partners.

The FCC has had some form of net-neutrality protections in place essentially since 2005 and enacted its most recent rules in 2015 under the Obama administration. Despite widespread, bipartisan support for those protections, the Republican-dominated FCC voted along party lines in December to eliminate them. Since then, supporters of those rules have been pushing back against the FCC's move on multiple fronts.

Here's how activists are attempting to reinstate net neutrality:

Congressional Review Act

Net neutrality supporters are focusing their efforts in part on the Congressional Review Act, a once-obscure law that allows Congress to overturn regulations enacted by federal agencies within 60 days of when they take effect.

To block such regulations, both houses of Congress would need to pass a CRA resolution, and the president would have to sign it. But unlike most legislation, which requires a supermajority in the Senate to even be considered, the resolutions only need a majority vote in both houses to pass.

In the Senate, the CRA resolution that would overturn the FCC's anti-net neutrality rules is right at that threshold. It has has 50 cosponsors — just one shy of a majority.

This week, net-neutrality supporters organized an online protest using the hashtag #OneMoreVote to try to pressure at least one more senator to back the resolution. It's likely the movement will get that vote, said Ernesto Falcon, legislative counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has supported net neutrality.

ajit pai chairman fcc federal communications commission net neutralitySupporters have more work to do in the House, where its version of the CRA resolution only has 150 cosposonsors — 68 shy of the needed majority. But if the Senate passes the resolution, it could put pressure on the House to do the same, Falcon said.

With midterm elections coming up, Republicans might not want to be seen to be opposing net neutrality, he said. A recent University of Maryland poll recently found that not only does the vast majority of Americans in general support net neutrality, three out of four Republican voters do.

An FCC spokesperson declined to comment.

Broadband for America, an organization that includes Comcast, AT&T, and Charter Communications, attacked net-neutrality activists for trying nullify the FCC's new rules via the CRA.

Such a move would be a "rushed, short-circuited approval process, with no public comment or input whatsoever," Broadband for America said in a statement.

Prior to the FCC passing its new anti-net neutrality rules, millions of people submitted comments, the vast majority of which were in favor of keeping the open internet protections in place. The agency pushed through its repeal of net neutrality protections anyway.

Regardless, the CRA process remains a long shot. Even if net-neutrality backers can convince Congress to pass the CRA, it's doubtful President Trump would sign it, give that the anti-net neutrality rules were put in place at the direction of Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman Trump nominated.

Lawsuits

But net-neutrality backers are pursuing another avenue to reinstate the FCC's open internet rules — the courts.

In the wake of the FCC's December vote, supporters of net neutrality protections have filed a flurry of lawsuits to undo the agency's repeal of them. Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser; streaming video provider Vimeo; and a collection of public interest groups filed suit in December. Last week, the attorneys general of 23 states filed a separate suit.

The suit filed by the group of attorneys general revolves around the proper way to classify broadband service. The FCC has gone back and forth on the issue over the last 20 years. But in its 2015 rules, the agency redesignated broadband as a telecommunications service rather than an information service. That designation essentially gave the agency the authority the courts said it needed to undergird its net-neutrality protections.

But the move was vehemently opposed by telecommunications providers and many politicians, particularly antiregulatory Republicans. They thought the designation brought with it too many burdensome regulations on broadband companies and would depress their investment in building out their networks.

The states are going to assert that they have the right to protect their own consumers.

The issue of how to classify broadband will be something the courts "will have to struggle with," said Jim Speta, a law professor at Northwestern University.

"That question really gets to the heart of the disagreement in the FCC," he said.

The lawsuits will also contend with the question of whether individual states have the authority to pass laws that would offer net-neutrality protections within their borders, something several states have moved to do following the FCC's repeal of its own protections. It's not entirely clear how the courts will come down on the controversy.

While the courts usually side with the federal government in conflicts with the states, legal experts are split on whether in this instance the states have a legitimate case to make, Speta said.

"The states are going to assert that they have the right to protect their own consumers," said Falcon, the EFF lawyer.

The lawsuits likely won't be decided for more than a year, and broadband providers will likely be able to operate in a net-neutrality free world until then, legal experts said.

"We'll get to see how ISPs operate in a virtually unregulated environment," Falcon said. 

An FCC representative said the agency wasn't concerned about the legal challenges to its anti-net neutrality rules.

"We have every reason to believe that the courts will uphold the FCC’s decision," the representative said.

State laws and orders

Supporters of net neutrality are also taking action inside particular states. Since the FCC's December vote, the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Montana have signed executive orders mandating ISPs with state contracts abide by net-neutrality rules. But those orders offer limited protections, because they don't apply to broadband providers that don't have state contracts. 

Senator Ed MarkeyOther states are looking to go farther. On Wednesday, Washington became the first state to pass a law requiring all ISPs within its borders to offer net-neutrality protections. Several other states, including California and Oregon, are considering similar laws.

As the lawsuits against the FCC make their way through the courts, states with their own net-neutrality laws will be able to guarantee their citizens those protections, at least until a court strikes down those laws.

"Washington and other states that are considering this are being proactive," said Marc Martin, an attorney with law firm Perkins Coie's communications practice. 

But such state-level actions aren't a great way to offer net-neutrality protections, legal experts said.

"As a matter of policy, it's a bad idea to have the internet governed by lots of little state regulations," Speta said.

A federal net-neutrality law

The best way to guarantee net neutrality would be for Congress to pass a law codifying such protections, legal experts said. That way the protections couldn't be put in place or taken away at the whim of whichever party had a majority in the FCC.

Even if courts rule that states have the right to enforce net-neutrality protections within their borders, legal experts said it's sound policy to have a federal law in place.

"Ultimately, the solution has to come at the federal level," Falcon said. 

What happens now?

Given the timing of the lawsuits and the uncertainty around the CRA process, the FCC rule overturning its net neutrality regulations will most likely take effect in April. The big broadband providers say that won't mater, because they actually support net neutrality, even if they didn't like the old rules. They've generally promised they won't slow down traffic, block websites, or create fast lanes and slow lanes online.

But several have said they want the freedom to give preference to certain kinds of internet traffic and some have already begun giving a leg up to their own sites and services in other ways. Regardless, thanks to the FCC's new rules, there's no way to ensure that they really will keep net-neutrality protections in place.

"That's all well and good to say that," Martin said. "But you can't enforce it — it's not a matter of law."

SEE ALSO: AT&T says it supports net neutrality and won't create internet 'fast lanes' — while pushing for the right to do just that

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I drove a $70,000 Chevy Tahoe RST on a family road trip to put it to the test —here's how it held up

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:19 AM PST

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

  • The Chevy Tahoe is a large-and-in-charge American SUV that's a great way to haul around a large family.
  • Our tester was a $70,000-plus special edition, but the base Tahoe is $47,500.
  • Fuel economy is a negative, comfort and power are not.


I have three kids and a dog, which makes me the patriarch of a bigger-than-average American family. 

In theory, we can cram everybody in a five-passenger car or SUV. But in practice, doing something that foolish would unleash combat. 

So when we take a road trip of any length, I generally look to secure a seven-passenger vehicle. Ideally a large seven-passenger vehicle.

Our lastest jaunt took myself, my lovely wife, and all three kids to the North Fork of Long Island — about a three-hour drive from our home base. Marco the dog didn't join us this time around, as he did on our last family sojourn in a Tesla Model X SUV.

Tesla Model X Road Trip

Our chariot was a Chevy Tahoe RST — a special, higher-performance version of Chevy's full-size SUV (and the brand's second-biggest ride, behind the Suburban). It tipped the cost scales at over $70,000. And it was pretty much perfect, even when you take into account the fuel-economy, which is unlikely to average better than 20 mpg unless you spend 100% of your driving days on the highway.

Seventy grand is a lot to spend for a family transportation platform, but with the Tahoe RST you're paying for a 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 and some additional performance goodies, such as beefier brakes and aftermarket-type exhaust, to go along with the 6,600-pound towing capacity (8,600 if you set the SUV up specifically to haul stuff) and the general feeling a driving around in an old-school road-ruler.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

Compare with a perfectly capable minivan, which can also swallow up a family of five. The Tahoe is simply larger, more powerful, more comfortable, and more commanding. And it's much, much more expensive.

But you get what you pay for. I've owned a minivan, and last year, I surveyed the state of the art for the US minivan market. And while I recommend these oft-stigmatized people-schleppers for families, it is objectively more fun to tool around in a great big old American SUV. It's also objectively worse for the environment, but everyone needs to make up his or her own mind about such matter. I've done my part by avoiding ownership of a Corvette Stingray, favoring a Toyota Prius instead.

The Tahoe, now in its fourth generation (it's been around since 1992) has genuine offroad credibility, making a good choice for country-dwelling folks with trailers to tow and trails to negotiate. But it's also a powerful and pleasant freeway cruiser, as we discovered.

With a rear-seat entertainment setup and "Star Wars" box set of DVDs, plus some wireless headphone, we were able to offer timeless space-opera storytelling to our two boys. My teenage daughter chose to sack out in the compact third row and Snapchat away while using the 4G LTE wifi setup.

Tesla Model X Road Trip

My wife and I grooved on the blues as piped through the SiriusXM radio and the Bose sound system. Our gear for a weekend fit nicely in the cargo area. However, for a weeklong trip, space back there would be tight. As it stood, one of the third-row seats was folded down to provide additional room.

The Tahoe RST is crazy fast for a giant SUV: the 0-60mph run have been achieved by some reviewers in under six seconds. I wouldn't want to go around corners too hard in this 7,000-pound beast, but in a straight line it's satisfying, at with 460 pound-feet of torque channeled through tidy 10-speed automatic transmission, the Tahoe RST has the oomph to pass freight trains.

The infotainment system is Chevy Intellilink, and it's dandy. With been impressed with its features across all General Motors' vehicles. Bluetooth pairing is a snap, the GPS navigation was faultless, and you have both USB and AUX options for devices, as well as numerous USB ports throughout the SUV for charging devices.

The RST upgrade is probably not something most families will need. But it does add something special to this very familiar machine. The thousands of dollars extra on final sticker might mean you'll put a dent in the college fund. But they'll also put a smile on your face.

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NOW WATCH: Jim Chanos says Elon Musk just told his 'biggest whopper' about Tesla yet

Here are 19 hot cars we can't wait to see at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:07 AM PST

Ferrari 488 Pista

  • The Geneva Motor Show is the first major European car show of 2018.
  • It will be packed with the latest offerings from Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Ferrari, Porsche, Volvo, VW, and Hyundai.
  • The show will be open to the public from March 8 to the 18 at the Palexpo in Geneva, Switzerland.

The 2018 Geneva Motor Show is the first major European car show of the year. Usually, Geneva is a big to do. Car makers pull out all the stops to show off their latest and greatest.

Aston Martin CEO Dr. Andy Palmer offered up a spot on description of the show when he said, "Geneva is a highlight of the industry calendar and a motor show with a rich history and great atmosphere."

And what rich atmosphere it will be.

The world's top brands will be there. From Ferrari to McLaren and Aston Martin to Bentley, Geneva will be packed with the next generation of exotics. In addition, there will be a host of production-ready models from mass-market luxury brands, such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and BMW.

The 2018 Geneva Motor Show will be open to the public from March 8-18 at the Palexpo Arena in Geneva, Switzerland.

Here's a closer look at the 19 hot cars we can't wait to see:

SEE ALSO: These are the best cars, trucks, and SUVs to buy in 2018

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Geneva will mark the auto show debut of Aston Martin's new Vantage sports car.



Aston CEO Dr. Andy Palmer hinted at a big surprise. It's possible this surprise may be a production DBX crossover.



Bentley is expected to unveil a new plug-in hybrid model and that could come in the form of a hybrid Bentayga.



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