The White House has issued a memorandum outlining the need for a new national wireless connectivity strategy; the document doesn’t really establish anything new, but does request lots of reports on how things are going. Strangely, what it proposes sounds a lot like what the FCC already does.
The memorandum, heralded by a separate post announcing that “America Will Win the Global Race to 5G,” is not exactly a statement of policy, though it does put a few things out there. It’s actually more of a request for information on which to base a future policy — apparently one that will win us a global race that began years ago.
In fact, the U.S. has been pursuing a broad 5G policy for quite a while now, and under President Obama we were the first country to allocate spectrum to the nascent standard. But since then progress has stalled and we have been overtaken by the likes of South Korea and Spain in policy steps like spectrum auctions.
After some talk about the “insatiable demand” for wireless spectrum and the economic importance of wireless communications, the memo gets to business. Reports are requested within 180 days from various Executive branch departments and agencies on “their anticipated future spectrum requirements,” as well as reviews of their current spectrum usage.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy is asked to report in the same time period on how emerging tech (smart homes and grids, for instance) could affect spectrum demand, and how research and development spending should be guided to improve spectrum access.
Another report from the Secretary of Commerce will explain “existing efforts and planned near- to mid-term spectrum repurposing initiatives.”
Then, 270 days from today the various entities involved here, including the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the FCC, will deliver a “long-term National Spectrum Strategy” that hits a number of targets:
Increase spectrum access, security and transparency
Create flexible spectrum management models, including standards, incentives and enforcement mechanisms
“Develop advanced technologies” to improve spectrum access and sharing
Improve the global competitiveness of U.S. “terrestrial and space-related industries” (which seems to encompass all of them)
It’s not exactly ambitious; the terms are vague enough that one would expect any new legislation or rules to accomplish or accommodate these things. One would hardly want a spectrum policy that decreased access and transparency. In fact, the previous administration issued spectrum memos much like these, years ago.
Meanwhile, this fresh start may frustrate those in government who are already doing this work. The FCC has been pursuing 5G and new spectrum policy for years, and it’s been a particular focus of Chairman Ajit Pai. He proposed a bunch of rules months ago, and just yesterday there was a proposal to bring Wi-Fi up to a more compatible and future-proof state.
It’s entirely possible that the agency may have to justify and re-propose things it’s already doing, or see those actions and rules questioned or altered by committees over the next year. From what I heard this whole effort from the White House was pursued without much participation from the FCC. I’ve contacted the Chairman’s office for details (he’s out of the country presently and had no prepared statement, which may give you an idea of his level of involvement).
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was not enthusiastic about the memo.
“We are ripping up what came before and starting with a new wireless policy sometime late next year. But the world isn’t going to wait for us,” she said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “Other nations are moving ahead with strategies they are implementing now while we’re headed to study hall — and in the interim we’re slapping big tariffs on the most essential elements of 5G networks. If you stand back and survey what is happening, you see that we’re not expediting our 5G wireless leadership, we’re making choices that slow us down.”
Whether this new effort will yield worthwhile results, we’ll know in 270 days. Until then the authorities already attempting to make the U.S. the leader in 5G will continue doing what they’re doing.
Backblaze started as a backup solution for consumers, but over the course of the last few years, it also added cloud storage and other services to its lineup. Today, however, the company is going back to its roots with the launch of Backblaze Cloud Backup version 6.0, its flagship service that offers unlimited storage and data transfers.
The updated backup service promises a number of speed increases (with backup being up to 50 percent faster, depending on the network conditions) and less overhead, as well as the ability to keep the service from using certain networks to help users avoid overage charges when they are using a mobile hotspot, for example (or when their ISP only gives them a certain bandwidth allotment). Backblaze now also offers single sign-on support for Google.The other major new feature is the ability to save snapshots to Backblaze’s B2 Cloud Storage service. This allows users to store all the data from their old computer and migrate it to a new one, for example, or save a set of files to the cloud as a permanent archive (or simply to free up space for all those Steam downloads). Just like when users restore files from their backups, they can opt to download it directly or get a USB drive shipped to their door.
Talking about those USB drives, Backblaze doubled the capacity of its USB keys to hold up to 256GB and its hard drives can now hold up to 8TB (and you can always return those and get a full refund from the company).
Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, is about to undertake the 10th launch of its New Shepard launch vehicle, with its capsule chock full of experiments. The launch, which was originally scheduled for a month ago but delayed for various reasons, will take place tomorrow at 6:50 AM Pacific time.
New Shepard is a sub-orbital space-visiting platform, not a satellite-launching one. But it uses a very traditional method of getting to the edge of space compared with Virgin Galactic’s rather involved mothership-spaceship combo, which scraped the very edge of space in its fourth test launch last month.
The rocket shoots straight up, as rockets do, reaches escape velocity, then pops its capsule off the top just before the Karman line that officially, if somewhat arbitrarily, delineates space from Earth’s atmosphere. The capsule, after exhausting its upward momentum, gently floats back to the surface under a parachute.
That’s the plan for Wednesday’s launch, which you can watch live here starting half an hour or so before T-0. But instead of taking a dummy load or “Mannequin Skywalker,” as the company calls its human stand-in during tests of the crew capsule, mission 10 has a whole collection of experiments on board.
There are nine experiments total, all flying through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. They’re detailed here. Most have already been up in other vehicles or even a Blue Origin one, but obviously repetition and iteration is important to their development.
“The opportunity to re-fly our payload is helping us not only validate and compare data for different flight profiles, but also test modifications and upgrades,” said NASA’s Kathryn Hurlbert, who heads up the Suborbital Flight Experiment Monitor-2 project at Johnson Space Center.
More Flight Opportunities spots will be available on future NASA-sponsored launches, so if your lab has an experiment it would like to test on a sub-orbital rocket, get at the administrators as soon as the shutdown ends.
Done cloning Snapchat, Facebook is now chasing Chinese short-form video sensation TikTok with the launch of its knock-off Lasso. Available now for iOS and Android, Lasso is Facebook’s answer to the zany mobile lipsyncing playground that’s gained ground with young users, both in China and in the West.
The release confirms TechCrunch’s scoop from last month that the company was building an app called Lasso to let people share short videos with soundtracks. With TikTok looking like the next big thing, it’s not surprising to see Facebook playing chase, much like it did, successfully, when Snapchat posed an existential threat.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the launch of Lasso on iOS and Android is in the U.S. only for now, telling us “Lasso is a new standalone app for short-form, entertaining videos — from comedy to beauty to fitness and more. We’re excited about the potential here, and we’ll be gathering feedback from people and creators.” While Lasso was released under the Facebook umbrella, the company launched it informally and with relatively little fanfare via a tweet from a product manager on the team.
Facebook is building Lasso, a video music app to steal TikTok’s teens
Lasso lets you shoot up to 15-second long videos (no uploads allowed) and overlay popular songs. The app centers around an algorithmic feed of recommended videos, but also lets you tap through hashtags or a Browse page of themed collections.
The original slate of videos seeded by Lasso’s beta users look pretty good, making use of the millions of songs in its soundtrack catalog. There are no augmented reality effects or crazy filters like you’ll find in TikTok, but users are already taking advantage of the slo-mo and fast-forward recording features to make fun clips. Overall the app feels well constructed, and has that colorful and playful teen vibe.
Surprisingly, Facebook is releasing Lasso under its own name rather than trying to obscure the connection to its social network that younger users have largely abandoned. You can log in with Facebook or Instagram to get instant personalization, with the option to syndicate your Lassos to Facebook Stories with that option for Instagram is coming soon. Notably, all content and profiles on Lasso are public, which could cause some concern about older users leering at dancing teens.
Musical.ly had its own big problems with inappropriate underage content. Its leaderboard of top videos often included scantly clad pre-teens dancing to racy pop songs, seemingly flaunting the U.S. COPPA child protection laws. Lasso includes a report button, but it’s unclear where Facebook will draw the line on what’s allowed.
The big question is whether Lasso is too late. Musical.ly rose to over 200 million registered users before being acquired by Chinese tech giant ByteDance and rolled into its similar app TikTok. That app has been on an epic rise over the past few months, turning into a global phenomenon that surpassed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube in downloads during October.
While Instagram and Facebook were massively successful at cloning Snapchat’s Stories, they had the advantage of building the feature into their already-popular apps. Lasso will have to start from scratch as a standalone app, and Facebook’s previous teen-focused standalones like Slingshot and Poke failed spectacularly with the same strategy. Facebook will have to hope its initial cadre of content creators will prove so compelling as to convince people to download a whole new app, which could be an uphill battle — even for Facebook.
Dyson referred to today’s event in New York as the company’s “biggest launch, ever,” unveiling a new vacuum and air purifier that have all the sort of pricey premium components we’ve come to anticipate from the UK company. Namesake James Dyson was on hand at the event, giving a bit of a history lesson on the company he founded 30 years ago, along with some… Read More
Spotify has settled the $1.6 billion lawsuit filed by music publisher Wixen Music Publishing in December 2017. The publisher, which represented artists like Tom Petty, Missy Elliot, Stevie Nicks and Neil Young, alleged copyright infringement, saying that Spotify was using tens of thousands of songs without a proper license. The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but Spotify has not filed a disclosure to shareholders with the SEC — an indication that the $1.6 billion was not awarded.
Instead, Spotify and Wixen have put out a joint statement saying they’ve agreed to a final dismissal of the lawsuit.
“The conclusion of that litigation is a part of a broader business partnership between the parties, which fairly and reasonably resolves the legal claims asserted by Wixen Music Publishing relating to past licensing of Wixen’s catalog and establishes a mutually-advantageous relationship for the future,” the statement reads.
There is a financial component to the settlement, but it’s clearly not the $1.6 billion Wixen had originally demanded, or Spotify would have needed to disclose that number to shareholders through a filing. However, we do understand the entirety of the funds from the settlement are going toward back-royalty payments, while the rest of the agreement involves how royalties will be paid going forward.
Though Spotify has faced a number of lawsuits from rights holders over the years, including one it settled for $43 million back in 2017, the Wixen suit was focused on Spotify’s use of the artists’ tens of thousands of songs without proper compensation.
The complaint had alleged that “Spotify brazenly disregards United States Copyright law and has committed willful, ongoing copyright infringement,” it said.
Wixen had also claimed that Spotify “neither obtained a direct or compulsory mechanical license” for the use of its artists’ works. And it claimed that, of the then 30 million songs in Spotify’s catalog, Spotify failed to pay songwriter royalties to a publishing company approximately 21 percent of the time.
Below, the original complaint:
View this document on Scribd
Today, the two parties announced they’ve settled on the matter out of court.
Spotify and Wixen had been working on an agreement for some time.
According to a filing from October 16, 2018, a judge had granted the parties an extension to respond to the complaint and submit their joint discovery plan because of their “ongoing settlement discussions.” They had until December 21, 2018 to answer or respond to the complaint, the filing said, but would not be granted any further continuances.
“I want to thank Daniel Ek and Horacio Gutierrez, and the whole Spotify team, for working with the Wixen team, our attorneys and our clients to understand our issues, and for collaborating with us on a win-win resolution,” said Randall Wixen, president of Wixen Music Publishing, Inc., in a statement. “Spotify is a huge part of the future of music, and we look forward to bringing more great music from our clients to the public on terms that compensate songwriters and publishers as important partners. I am truly glad that we were able to come to a resolution without litigating the matter. Spotify listened to our concerns, collaborated with us to resolve them and demonstrated throughout that Spotify is a true partner to the songwriting community,” he said.
“We’d like to thank Randall Wixen and Wixen Music Publishing for their cooperation in helping us reach a solution,” said Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify general counsel and VP, Business & Legal Affairs, in a statement. “Wixen represents some of the world’s greatest talents and most treasured creators, and this settlement represents its commitment to providing first-rate service and support to songwriters while broadening its relationship with Spotify.”
Spotify has been working to better address the claims by rightsholders as well as their needs, from a product perspective, in more recent months. Following its 2017 settlement agreement in another suit, the company was directed to improve the “gathering and collecting of information about composition owners to help ensure those owners are paid their royalties in the future.”
Earlier this year it followed up on that by launching a new songwriter credits feature, which helps to better track who deserves credit for the song. In November, it launched an analytics service for music publishers to track their artists’ streaming stats.
It also this year snatched up music licensing platform Loudr to help it be better prepared for the technical challenges that come with tracking rights, and specifically the mechanical licenses, which have been the issue in numerous legal claims.
The overall music industry has also been impacted by the Music Modernization Act, which was signed into law in October. The law overhauls the regulations for licensing in the streaming era. However, it says that royalty disputes originating after January 1, 2018 would be handled under the new law, so it would not have applied to the Wixen suit.
With the explosion of streaming services now available, it’s becoming more difficult to figure out not just what movie or TV show to watch next, but where you can actually watch it. Google today is rolling out its solution to this problem with a significant revamp of its Google Play Movies & TV app and an update to the Google Play Store itself that will show you which streaming services have the content available, in addition to whether it’s available for rent or purchase, as before.
The end result is something that’s similar to Apple’s own TV app, which combines users’ own library of movies and TV with the ability to seek out what’s trending and available in the world of online video.
In the updated Google Play Movies & TV app, you’ll now find three tabs in the new bottom navigation bar which will direct you to your Home, Library or your Watchlist. The watchlist is a feature the app recently gained as well, but now it has a much more prominent position.
As you browse through the app, you can click on titles to read more about them, as before, but now you’re also able to see where the item can be streamed.
At launch, Google is working with 28 streaming services whose content libraries are now integrated in Google Play Movies & TV. That’s fewer than Apple’s TV app supports, which is currently over 60.
But it will find content even if it’s an exclusive to the streaming provider, and not necessarily something Google has for rent or sale. That means you can find original programming – like Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle” – and then start watching it on the streaming service that hosts it.
“We deeplink right into playback for that [third-party streaming] app,” explains Ben Serridge, the product manager for the Movies & TV app at Google. “So if I wanted to start watching ‘The Good Doctor’ pilot, I press the play button and it goes into the ABC app and start playback.”
Beyond the big names, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, the app also pulls in content from ABC, CBS, FOX NOW, NBC, HBO NOW, HBO Go, Showtime, Showtime Anytime, Max Go, Starz, Disney Now, HGTV, BET Now, Comedy Central, A&E, Cooking Channel, Crackle, DIY Network, Food Network, History, Lifetime, MTV, The CW, Travel Channel, Tubi TV and VH1.
Notably missing is Netflix, whose content is searchable in Apple’s TV app.
Serridge didn’t comment on why it’s missing, saying only that “we would very much like to have all the apps that distribute this kind of content on Play participating” – effectively tossing the ball back to Netflix’s court.
Even without Netflix, the feature is useful if not comprehensive. It will show you the services hosting the content, whether it’s freely available to stream, if you need a subscription (as with HBO Now), the associated costs, or if you need to login with pay TV credentials to watch.
This is especially helpful because some of the network TV apps offer a teaser of a show with a few free episodes, but not complete seasons. The Google Play Movies & TV app will help you track down the rest elsewhere, if need be.
The app will also now help you narrow down searches thanks to a robust filtering system that lets you click on tags by genre, mood, decade, and more. For example, you could click on “Family,” “Drama,” Award winning,” Highly rated,” Comedy,” and other filters.
In addition to helping you find content, stream it, or add it to your Watchlist, the app includes personalized recommendations. These will be partly based on items you’ve previously watched, but you can also explicitly signal your interest or distaste as well, by clicking on the thumbs up or thumbs down button. The thumbs down will remove the item from your suggestions entirely.
Outside the app itself, the Play Store is being updated to show you the same information about content availability.
Solutions like the new Google Play Movies & TV app and Apple’s TV app are handy in the cord cutting era where content is spread out across networks, services, and other over-the-top offerings. But even these apps aren’t enough. Not only is Netflix missing from Google’s app, so is its own YouTube original content – and that’s the same company!
Also not addressed by either Apple or Google’s app are which shows may be available to stream or record via live TV services like YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, and Sling TV. (Although, to be fair, that’s not only a different set of services, it’s also a much larger challenge given that broadcast network availability varies by market. A dedicated solution like Suppose.tv or Fomopop’s live TV finder may work better.)
Meanwhile, there are other tools for finding and tracking favorite shows, like Reelgood or TV Time (or a jailbroken Fire TV stick we should admit), but they don’t have the benefit of matching content from a rent-and-buy marketplace like Google Play, or being available across phone, tablet, and desktop web, like Google Play.
Google says the new features will roll out to Android phones and tablets in the U.S. over the next few days.
Lyft made a lot of progress in 2017, helped by strong market expansion within the U.S. and riding some very bad news from its primary rival, Uber. That’s helped it grow revenue to more than $1 billion as measured by GAAP standards for its fiscal 2017, with a particularly strong Q4 during which its revenue outpaced Uber’s by 2.75x, lifted (get it?) 168 percent year-over-year, versus… Read More
At CES, the Chinese tech giant Baidu today announced OpenEdge, its open source edge computing platform. At its core, OpenEdge is the local package component of Baidu’s existing Intelligent Edge (BIE) commercial offering and obviously plays well with that service’s components for managing edge nodes and apps.
Since this is obviously a developer announcement, I’m not sure why Baidu decided to use CES as the venue for this release, but there can be no doubt that China’s major tech firms have become quite comfortable with open source. Companies like Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and others are often members of the Linux Foundation and its growing stable of projects, for example, and virtually ever major open source organization now looks to China as its growth market. It’s no surprise then that we’re also now seeing a wider range of Chinese companies that open source their own projects.
“Edge computing is a critical component of Baidu’s ABC (AI, Big Data and Cloud Computing) strategy,” says Baidu VP and GM of Baidu Cloud Watson Yin. “By moving the compute closer to the source of the data, it greatly reduces the latency, lowers the bandwidth usage and ultimately brings real-time and immersive experiences to end users. And by providing an open source platform, we have also greatly simplified the process for developers to create their own edge computing applications.”
A company spokesperson tells us that the open source platform will include features like data collection, message distribution and AI inference, as well as tools for syncing with the cloud.
Baidu also today announced that it has partnered with Intel to launch the BIE-AI-Box and with NXP Semiconductors to launch the BIE-AI-Board. The box is designed for in-vehicle video analysis while the board is small enough for cameras, drones, robots and similar applications.
Facebook was in the news a bit more than they would have preferred in 2018, but the company’s leadership will be taking to the stage to talk about its next product evolutions for consumers and developers. The social media giant has just announced its dates for its annual developer conference, Facebook will be returning to San Jose on April 30 and May 1.
In a short blog post, the company highlighted how the event will be “showcasing how technology can enable the best of what people can do together.”
This past year’s F8 proved to be a bit more of a conservative exercise for the company, leaving a defiant Mark Zuckerberg to defend his company while making concessions that there was much more to be done to protect user privacy. The event’s big announcement, Facebook Dating, is still in the testing phase. On the hardware side, the $199 Oculus Go virtual reality headset which launched at the event seemed to arrive to mostly positive reviews.
Registration for F8 isn’t open yet and likely won’t be for a couple months. In the past, tickets for developers have gone for $595.
We’ll see where Facebook chooses to take the direction of this year’s developer conference, but we’ve got a few more months to ponder it further. What’s next for Instagram with a new team at its helm? What’s the Facebook blockchain team working on? Will we see a new AR/VR product from Oculus?
Oden Technologies, the Industrial IoT startup that provides manufacturing data analytics, has closed $10 million in Series A funding.
The round is led by European venture capital firm Atomico, which appears to be revving up its “Industry 4.0” investment strategy following a recent investment in CloudNC. A number of existing investors also participated including EQT Ventures, and Inbox Capital. Noteworthy, Atomico founder and CEO Niklas Zennström, who also co-founded Skype, has joined the Oden Technologies board.
Originally founded in London but now based in New York, Oden Technologies pitches itself as an Industry 4.0 company that has built its own industrial IoT hardware and “big data architecture” to offer a platform for manufacturers of any size to analyse and optimise factory production via the cloud.
Put simply, the Oden device plugs into almost any kind of manufacturing machine, while its “software adaptors” integrate data from existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and quality control software on the manufacturing line. This data is then uploaded to Oden’s cloud analytics platform in real-time to give manufacturers the full production picture, including real-time factory floor monitoring.
So, why is this significant? Essentially, the retrofittable Oden device and resulting data analytics makes the existing factory floor smarter. This includes the ability to spot manufacturing defects or aspects of a machine’s degrading performance that could lead to defects, and more broadly, ways to further optimise production throughput and uptime.
The result is a reduction in waste (think: products that need be discarded or are ultimately returned by customers), and an increase in efficiency more generally, helping tech-driven factories retain their competitive edge.
In a call with Oden Technologies co-founder and CEO Willem Sundblad, he said that the company’s mission is to help manufacturers achieve “perfect production,” in terms of not only making better products but also making them faster, cheaper and with much less waste.
Traditionally manufacturers haven’t had access to the right data and insights to make factories more efficient and productive. However, with the collision of big data, cloud services and new industrial IoT hardware, this is quickly changing and is the exact space that Oden operates in.
In terms of what data Oden’s device captures, Sundblad explained that it typically consists of metrics that relate to machine process, health, the processing of the part/product, and quality. “The raw data is mostly available in the machines but then we analyse it to provide answers,” he says.
In addition, Oden captures things like the melt pressure of the material, the temperature profile when the material melted, dimensional read outs to understand the quality of the product, and water temperatures from cooling tanks. Other data points include revolutions per minute on moving parts inside of a machine, the motor load of the motors, and the speed of production, to name just a few.
“We analyze and process that data so customers understand how much excess material they are putting on the product, was the quality Ok, and if not why, alerting for when things are bad or will be bad, and [doing] trends analysis for how the product can be optimised. It all comes back to ROI for customers, which always comes from more uptime, less scrap and more good quality output”.
Atomico’s Zennström echoes these sentiments, arguing that manufacturing has until now remained “relatively untouched” by digital technology. As a result, it still has major areas of inefficiency. “The combination of IIoT, Big Data analytics, cloud computing and machine learning marks a new era for industry,” he says. This will see Industry 4.0 technologies not only increase efficiency and reduce waste, but also enable smaller batch sizes, more personalised products and greater product innovation.
Meanwhile, Oden says it will use the new funding to further expand its R&D and engineering teams in New York, and to accelerate customer growth with new sales teams in the manufacturing hubs of Illinois, Ohio and Texas.
The company also recently hired Deepak Turaga, Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University, as its VP of Data Science. He’ll be helping Oden with its machine learning and AI efforts, and has previously worked at IBM as the Distinguished Research Staff Member and Manager of the AI First ML and Planning Group.
Google’s long-and-winding road to figuring out messaging is taking yet another change of direction after the company called time on Allo, its newest chat app launch, in order to double down on its vision to enable an enhanced version of SMS.
The company told The Verge that it is “pausing” work on Allo, which was only launched as recently as September 2016, in order to put its resources into the adoption of RCS (Rich Communication Services), a messaging standard that has the potential to tie together SMS and other chat apps. RCS isn’t new, and Google has been pushing it for some time, but now the company is rebranding it as “Chat” and putting all its efforts into getting operators on board.
The new strategy will see almost the entire Allo team switch to Android Messages, according to The Verge.
In case you didn’t hear about it before, RCS is essentially a technology that allows basic “SMS” messaging to be standardized across devices. In the same way that iMessage lets Apple device owners chat for free using data instead of paid-for SMS, RCS could allow free chats across different networks on Android or other devices. RCS can be integrated into chat apps, which is something Google has already done with Android Messages, but the tipping point is working with others, and that means operators.
Unlike Apple, RCS is designed to work with carriers who can develop their own messaging apps that work with the protocol and connect to other apps, which could include chat apps. Essentially, it gives them a chance to take part in the messaging boom, rather than be cut out as WhatsApp, Messenger, iMessage and others take over. They don’t make money from consumers, but they do get to keep their brand and they can look to get revenue from business services.
But this approach requires operators themselves to implement the technology. That’s no easy thing as carriers don’t exactly trust tech companies — WhatsApp alone has massively eaten into its SMS and call revenues — and they don’t like working with each other, too.
Google said more than 55 operators worldwide have been recruited to support Chat, but it isn’t clear exactly when they might roll it out. Microsoft is among the OEM supporters, which raises the possibility it could bring support to Windows 10, but the company was non-committal when The Verge pressed it on that possibility.
Google has tried many things on messaging, but it has largely failed because it doesn’t have a ramp to users. WhatsApp benefited from being a first mover — all the other early leaders in Western markets are nowhere to be seen today — and Facebook Messenger is built on top of the world’s most popular social network.
Both of those services have more than one billion active users, Allo never got to 50 million. Google search doesn’t have that contact, and the company’s previous efforts didn’t capture market share. (Hangouts was promising but it has pivoted into a tool for enterprises.)
That left Google with two options: take on carriers directly with an iMessage-style service that’s built into Android, or work with them.
It chose the second option. It is far messier with so many different parties involved, but it is also apparently a principled approach.
“We can’t do it without these [carrier and OEM] partners. We don’t believe in taking the approach that Apple does. We are fundamentally an open ecosystem. We believe in working with partners. We believe in working with our OEMs to be able to deliver a great experience,” Anil Sabharwal, the Google executive leading Chat, told The Verge.
Sabharwal refused to be drawn on a timeframe for operators rolling out Chat apps.
“By the end of this year, we’ll be in a really great state, and by mid-next year, we’ll be in a place where a large percentage of users [will have] this experience,” he said, explaining that uptake could be quicker in Europe or Latin America than the U.S. “This is not a three-to-five-year play. Our goal is to get this level of quality messaging to our users on Android within the next couple of years.”
We shall see. But at least there won’t be yet more Google messaging apps launching, so there’s that.