Without context Google’s billion device “Assistant” claim is B.S.


ReBlogged from om.coNick Bilton photo

Google says its “Assistant” (the voice-based query service) is soon going to be on a billion devices –primarily phones, and a majority of them being on the Android phones. There are some obvious questions that the report should have covered. For instance:

  • Are these pre-installed on the OS as part of deals with handset makers or phone companies?
  • What some money involved to get these pre-installed if they were pre-installed?
  • What percentage of these were downloaded by end customers?
  • How many Google Assistant speaker-type devices has the company sold and not just given away as part of some promotion?
  • What is the number of daily active users of the Google Assistant?
  • How is the daily usage trending? Any data? Claiming global active users have grown four times over past one year is utterly meaningless!
  • What countries is the Assitant popular in?
  • And is it GDPR compliant?
  • How does it correlate with Google’s current business model of placing advertising against search results?

In other words, without the relevant context, Google’s claim is no better than old fashion bullshit. For whatever its worth, I find Google Assistant is very good at understanding my accent than Alexa and Siri. They are also much more accurate than those two. Unfortunately, I don’t trust Google to let them into my apartment on a device.

Ditto! I agree.

Traveling to Ladakh – part 2


Om Malik

❝ When I went to sleep last night, I was excited about the prospects of the new day. I had no idea that it would turn out to be one of those red letter days that teach you pretty much everything about life. Now that I think of it, it was a good parable for life, and a reminder of how despite our illusions, we are never really in control.

❝ The day started for me very early – at nearly 3 am. It is — in the words of my friend Liam Casey — the jet lag witching hour, when you lie wide awake in the bed, looking at the roof of the room. In my case, I turned and looked outside.

And what I saw was magical. A sky that was wholly adorned with stars. It was the most beautiful night sky I ever saw. I’ve never seen so many stars ever before. Never in California. Never in Death Valley. Never in Iceland. To be honest, never anywhere. It was simply fantastic. Stars were like the sparkling pearls embroidered with abandon into the black velvet that is the universe…

When Om is traveling, his letters, his posts are as magical as his photography. The talent he expresses with his vision of the world around us is as special and alive as any description or analysis.

Pic of the Day – Calistoga in the rain


Click to enlargeOm Malik

❝ I ended up in Calistoga to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I forgot my backpack at home and as a result am reduced to just one device – my phone. It is interesting to be forced to use a different, wider lens when you are used to a 50 mm lens.

❝ Made with the iPhone7Plus at the Calistoga Ranch, California. Edited with RNI Films app.

Om is living proof that journalists and geeks can both end up doing a damned good job at being human beings. Thoughtful, caring, constructive.

This is from a series of photos noted above – taken with his iPhone as an expedient. But, don’t be surprised by his skill and obvious talent. He’s done notable work with the iPhone as an exercise before.

Click this link through to the photos page of his blog. Click any of the images you like and you will move into the series that snap represents.

Pic of the day – Finding my lens, Om Malik


Click to enlargeOm Malik

My recent visit to Faroe Islands turned out to be life changing in more ways than I had thought. The first break through came on the second night of the trip and it has allowed me to focus on what matters, and why some tools work for some people and some don’t. It has had a remarkable impact on how I make photos. Here is how it happened.

After a long day two, I came back to the hotel and downloaded my photos to the laptop, only to find many of them were unsatisfactory. I had been using the (24mm – equivalent on full frame) 16mm f/1.4 Fuji wide angle lens. Many of the vistas that looked great when standing at the top of the hill, felt so much less inspiring when viewed on the desktop screen. They looked flat and lacked the three dimensional feeling I aspire to in my photos and other creative efforts. I felt discouraged, because of what seemed like white noise. The puffin photos weren’t good either and despite walking to the very edge of the cliff and lying in cold and wet grass for a while to capture the moment. (A handful made the final cut, but frankly I could and should have done better.)

Later in the evening, Dan Rubin, who is one of the instructors at the f8workshops, and I ended up talking about the day’s work and my frustration with the pictures. Dan suggested that perhaps what I like is to shoot is tighter and highly isolated views. He pointed out that I feel so happy with photos I make with my 50mm focal length lens. His suggestion: switch to the f2/50mm full time and use it not only as my general purpose lens but also for travel and landscape photography.

Forget about the wider views and instead focus on composition and strive to find ways to make photos that give the feeling of wide sweeping vistas and vastness, but leave that to a viewer’s imagination. You don’t have to put it all there in order to engage the viewer. And just like that, it all clicked in place.

RTFA to continue this voyage of discovery – or even better, wander over to Om’s site and wander back in time through photos and feelings about his trip to the Faroes.

Cockroaches, Unicorns, Startups. Enough Already! — by Om Malik


Zombie Unicorn

An article on the UK-version of BusinessInsider got me a little worked up and I made a post on my Facebook page. An intense conversation followed and Dave Winer suggested that this would make a good blog post. He was right – as always!

“Everything is about resiliency now to weather the storm,” says Tim McSweeney, a director at technology-focused merchant bank Restoration Partners. “Unicorn, it’s a mythical beast, whereas a cockroach, it can survive a nuclear war.”

I was annoyed by this comment mostly because I get really annoyed by these dumb labels that are put on startups. I hated the label unicorn, and have not been shy about pointing that out:

“A unicorn is a mythical thing which doesn’t exist. It’s a big fat lie. If you’re calling yourself a unicorn as a company, you’re a big fat lie. Why don’t you just say what you are, that you’re a startup with some valuation?”

I have been investing for a few years now, as an investor I have never looked for a “unicorn” or a “cockroach” startup. I have always looked for a good startup. I have looked for passionate founders, full of convinction, who are okay to be first and are comfortable with a future that others don’t see just yet. I like ideas and solutions for real problems. I like technology startups. As my partner Jon Callaghan often says, venture capital is for creating brave new markets. It is about creating entire new industries. It is about inventing new way of solving problems. Some ideas are small. Others radical.

But none of them are a unicorn, donkey, horse, ox or a cockroach. These made up words represent a limited grasp on vocabulary of those who are seeking cheap attention. As an investor, what I don’t look for is startups that come with dumb labels, popularized by reporters who don’t know what the hell they are talking about and are looking for cheap slogans to put on their click bait bullshit headlines.

The so called technology/business media is doing as much damage as wannabe investors and wantrenpreuers. Story tellers have forgotten in their race for page views – words have a meaning and words can shape narratives.

I second that emotion.

Thanks, Om

15 Liters of water – Om Malik

Om at Taj Mahal

When California was amidst a drought, I decided to implement a three minute shower limit so as to minimize my water usage. A typical shower is about eight minutes long and takes up about 17 gallons or 65 liters of water. So a three minute shower consumes about six gallons Of water. I embraced other water saving changes, but the short shower was the one which I thought made the most sense on an individual level. It has become a habit since, only to realize that I could do more.

When I came to Delhi to visit my parents, I had to use a bucket of water to take a bath. Water is a real luxury around the world. You remember that when you open the taps and there isn’t a drop in sight. And that is why you figure out how to bathe with a bucket of water. This is what you learn as a child and it remains for you forever. It didn’t take me long to remind myself – a good bath needs about 15 liters of water. That’s about 3.96 gallons of water. I will remember that next time I open the shower tap!

March 30, 2016, New Delhi

Worth remembering no matter where we are in the world.

Thank you, Om.

Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs

Reading in the current age of the Internet has led to some subtle modifications in how we read. I suspect we are consuming so many words, or at least way more than normal and as a result we have become “skimmers” and letting our brain to fill in the gaps. I was reminded of our changing behavior by a marketing email from Le Labo Fragrances. Thought you folks might get a kick out of it!

Om Malik

Thanks, Om

Om Malik on changing old behaviors


Taking a picture of Om taking a picture

When I was a kid, my grandma told me the story of a hard headed man who decided that he didn’t like that his dog had a curved tale. He took the tail and encased it in a tube and left it like that for over a decade, confident that the tail would come out straight. A decade later, when he removed the tube, the tail was still crooked. It is a weird thing to remember especially since I am contemplating my own behavior modifications.

Or perhaps it is a realization that one of the hardest things to do in life is changing and modifying deeply ingrained behaviors. The longer you live, the harder it becomes to make the requisite adjustments. Sure, mortality, or more appropriately the fear of death, forced me to give up smoking (after chain smoking for nearly 25 years) and most of other bad behaviors — I am finding that there are some behaviors that are proving to be pretty hard to modify…

Blogging for me in the early aughts meant writing, short bursts, multiple times a day. That meant being hot wired into the news cycles and constantly monitoring what was happening in the industry. Unknowingly, my mind was being programmed to react and write to the flow of the news. As I have said before, this is a narcotic. My awareness of this problem is because I continue to struggle — that is react to the “news cycle” and often find myself writing blog posts that are well, news-focused blog posts that were the hallmark of the post-investment phase of Gigaom. I am acutely aware of this, because I am trying to turn back the clock to an older time when my blogging was decoupled from the happenings on the front page (or in my case business page) of the daily newspapers.

RTFA. Om sets the stage for a brief – and sharply focused – essay on changing our communication habits, skills. If we were seated in a small group – no matter where – taking the time to reflect upon his analysis and questions raised, I think the discussion would be as varied, interesting and fruitful as the number of individuals involved.

Om Malik is someone I listen to most often through his writing, occasionally via an appearance on TV or a video podcast. He provokes thought. Dangerous habit, I know.