Microsoft, Facebook, trust and privacy

There are strong parallels between organised abuse of Facebook and FB’s attempts to respond, in the last 24 months, and malware on Windows and Office and Microsoft’s attempts to respond, 20 years ago.

Initial responses in both cases have taken two paths: tactical changes to development and API practices to try to make the existing model more secure, and attempts to scan for known bad actors and bad behavior (virus scanners then and human moderators now)

For Microsoft’s malware problem, however, this was not the long-term answer: instead the industry changed what security looked like by moving to SaaS and the cloud and then to fundamentally different operating system models (ChromeOS, iOS) that make the malware threat close to irrelevant.

Facebook’s pivot towards messaging and end-to-end encryption is (partly) an attempt to do the same: changing the model so that the threat is irrelevant. But where the move to SaaS and new operating systems happened largely without Microsoft, Facebook is trying to drive the change itself

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Is Alexa working?

Amazon’s Alexa has been a huge, impressive and unexpected achievement. Amazon created a category from scratch and left both the AI leader Google and the device leader Apple scrambling in its wake. It’s now sold 100m units. So far, though, this success is pretty contingent - we do still have to ask what Amazon actually gains from this. What do consumers do with these devices that helps Amazon? What fundamental strategic benefit does it get? Amazon has put an end-point into tens of millions of homes - what does it do with it?

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The scale of tech winners

We all know, I think, that there are now far more smartphones than PCs, and we all know that there are far more people online now than there used to be, and we also, I think, mostly know that big tech companies today are much bigger than the big tech companies of the past. It’s useful, though, to put some real numbers on that, and to get a sense of use how much the scale has changed, and what that means.

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GAFA's org structures as a platform for growth.

Earlier this week I did a podcast with my colleague Steven Sinofsky talking about the management structures of Google, Apple. Facebook and Amazon ('GAFA'). These companies now have around 10 times more employees than they did a decade ago, yet they still manage to function, and function extremely well, producing a stream of great work. The interesting thing is that the management structures that they've used to achieve that are actually very different.

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Content isn't king

People in tech and media have been saying that ‘content is king’ for a long time - perhaps since the VHS/Betamax battle of the early 1980s, and perhaps longer. Content and access to content was a strategic lever for technology. I’m not sure how much this is still true.  Music and books don’t matter much to tech anymore, and TV probably won’t matter much either. 

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