As IBM continues to divest itself from its pesky, low margin hardware businesses, the company has seen revenues continually shrink, and this quarter profits and outlook did not meet Wall Street expectations. And the stock got hammered, now down $20 a share. IBM reported revenues of $22.4 billion, which generated $3.5 billion in profit, down 17% where IBM had reported $4.1 billion in profit only last quarter. This reflects an EPS $3.46 before the charges made in the quarter. These figures are based upon continuing operations as a result of the fact that IBM has decided to discontinue their microelectronics manufacturing business in addition to selling their x86 server business to Lenovo. Consolidated results, including a net loss on discontinued operations of $3.4 billion put IBM’s net income at $18 million on the quarter and an EPS of $0.02. As IBM enters this time of uncertainty, we all have to ask, are we about to see the reemergence of a troubled giant of the 80’s or are we getting a front seat to another miraculous turnaround like Gerstner performed in the 90’s? It’s important not to jump to conclusions as these things take time.
Divesting From Hardware
By Danie D. Taylor
Google is now taking pre-orders for the Nexus Player, a product that makes no sense at all while it is still selling Chromecast
If you’re curious what the next “Snapchat” will be, there’s no better place to look than teens and the products they’re using.
Luckily, the folks over at Product Hunt have curated a collection of the apps and websites that teens are using, creating a list for teens, by teens.
From little-known wonders like “Detour” and “Downtyme” to a selfie app that can boast Justin Bieber as an angel investor, you’re bound to find something surprising and new.
Shots is all about sharing selfies. Justin Bieber invested in Shots early on as an angel investor. Shots is incredibly popular with teen girls, with 75% of its users females between the ages of 13 and 24, according to Yahoo.
Downtyme lets you and your friends see each other’s availability, making it easy to see who’s free and invite them with a single tap to dinner or to study. Downtyme even syncs with your calendar so you don’t have to update it. Downtyme is scheduled to launch in 2015.
Price: N/A (sign up)
Detour is a unique new app that promises to narrate stories to you based on where you’re physically walking. The app will guide along while telling you stories about the places you’re seeing. The app is launching first in San Francisco, but the Detour team plans on bringing the app to more cities in the future.
Price: N/A (sign up)
San Francisco appears to have two new Michelin three-star restaurants, doubling its number of top-ranked restaurants, if all else stays the same.
The 2015 San Francisco guide is not officially out until 6pm EST Tuesday, but chef Thomas Keller, whose restaurant The French Laundry also has three stars, tweeted congratulations to the two apparent newcomers with the hashtag #3stars.
They are Benu, an Asian fusion restaurant, and Saison, which serves French cuisine. Three stars is the highest possible Michelin rating, and is awarded to just a handful of restaurants around the globe.
Previously, only two San Francisco restaurants — The French Laundry and The Restaurant at Meadowwood — had a three-star designation. Both of those restaurants are in Napa Valley. Benu and Saison, which previously had two Michelin stars, are both located in San Francisco’s SoMa district.
The French Laundry tweeted about both additions shortly before the list was officially revealed:
Michelin announced its 2015 New York ratings at the end of September. Six of the seven restaurants that earned three stars in 2014 retained those rankings. They are Le Bernardin, Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, Eleven Madison Park , Jean Georges, Masa, and Per Se.
Chef Daniel Boulud’s Daniel was downgraded to two stars.
SEE ALSO: The Best ‘Cheap Eats’ In San Francisco
Academic research is not written for the average reader.
The level of precision demanded by that work calls for a specialized vocabulary — some would call it jargon — that makes it often incomprehensible to a non-expert.
While there’s a legitimate case to be made that such language is necessary for accuracy, some think that the whole thing has gone too far.
In a recent essay titled “Why Academics Stink At Writing” for the The Chronicle Of Higher Education, the well-known Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker tried to make sense of the “prose style called academese” that he calls “the most conspicuous trait of the American professoriate” along with “wearing earth tones, driving Priuses, and having a foreign policy.”
As Pinker points out, the Calvin and Hobbes comic where Calvin titles his homework “The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender Modes,” and then tells Hobbes “Academia, here I come!” is not far off.
Pinker has a variety of explanations, including the idea that there’s little incentive for academics to write well in a conventional sense. Still, he offers a link to a free downloadable writing guide for academics and mentions his new book, “The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.”
The essay got an unexpected response.
Researchers who use Twitter took to the internet to tweet descriptions of their work using a language that’s theoretically now the argot of the people: emoji. They used the hashtag #emojiresearch.
And the results were amazing, if sometimes inscrutable. The Chronicle collected some of the best responses in a Storify, which we’ve embedded below.
What do you think — easier or harder to understand than academic lingo?
Some Uber drivers are unhappy with the company.
But the next step for the drivers is a multi-city protest on Oct. 22, which will take place in front of Uber’s various offices from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST, in cities across the country including Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and London.
The multi-city protest is organized by a newly formed nonprofit group called the California App-Based Drivers Association (CADA), Teamsters Local 986 (a Southern California-based union), and groups that have sprung up on social media, like Uber Drivers Network NYC, who organized a protest in September outside Uber’s New York City offices in Long Island City, Queens.
However, one group of protesters — Uber Driver Network NYC — will not participate in the Oct. 22 protest. Instead, in solidarity with the CADA-organized protest, the drivers will simply shut off their phones, effectively disallowing potential Uber customers from hailing them.
What do these drivers want?
According to De Wolf Sandoval, Uber drivers have a handful of issues with the company, including Uber’s reduced fares, Uber’s tipping policy, the five-star rating system, and driver safety. “It’s not just a small group of disgruntled or unprofessional drivers, as Uber would like to cast us,” De Wolf Sandoval told us. “But it’s a nationwide feeling of general unhappiness and unease with policies and programs that are being promulgated by Uber without the drivers’ input whatsoever.”
In July, Uber reduced its UberX fares, effectively making Uber a cheaper option for getting around the city than a taxi. In September, Uber decided to extend its reduced UberX fare promotion indefinitely.
Uber said the cuts in fare — which were presumably made to keep Uber competitive with other companies like Lyft — would lead to drivers having a greater volume of customers, which would offset the lower fares Uber drivers were taking home.
However, many drivers are unhappy about this. They say they’re unable to pick up more clients to make up for Uber’s lower fares, as the company suggests. They say they’re actually losing money.
Oris Fortuna, an Uber driver, told Business Insider at an Uber driver protest outside the company’s Queens, New York, offices in September, “Since Uber implemented the 20% off discount on all Uber rides, I’ve been losing $200 a week. To make up for it, you have to work 20% more. That means more mileage and more gas. An $8 trip is not worth it.”
“What the UberX drivers are finding out here in Los Angeles and around the country, from our discussions on social media, is that it’s a lot of very short calls that can eat up their driving hours,” De Wolf Sandoval said.
"I’ve asked them this: ‘Are you doing better now than you were six months ago?’ And not one single driver that we’ve spoken with, or one of our members, has been able to say, ‘Yes, I am better off now than I was six months ago.’ We asked the question: ‘Do you think you’re going to be better off six months now than you are today?’ And unfortunately, they believe it’s just going to be worse and worse because of the fare war between Uber and Lyft.”
We reached out to Uber numerous times, and we’ll update the story if the company responds.
At the September protest in Queens, Naresh Motwani, an UberSUV driver, told Business Insider that he signed up to be an Uber driver in April and regrets it.
When Motwani signed up with Uber, he asked Uber about the tip policy. “The answer I got was ‘we do not charge tip. We give an all inclusive fare to the customer.’ I asked, what if the customer wants to tip anyway? Her response: ‘Do not accept any tip from the customer.’ I do not remember if she said to tell them the tip is included.”
Motwani said many customers want to tip him, but Uber’s app doesn’t allow customers to add a tip, as Lyft’s does. Some of his customers give him cash tips.
In December, a federal judge ruled that Uber drivers could sue the company for deceptive marketing that told customers that Uber fares already included a tip, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Uber’s marketing initially said ‘The tip is included in the fare,’ and that was absolutely not the case,” De Wolf Sandoval said. “The fare has always been the calculation of the distance and the time and the base fare and any surcharges and any tolls.
"And never has there been, in UberBLACK, UberSUV or UberX’s platforms, a calculation for the tip. And it’s impermissible, from a labor standpoint, for management to take a percentage of tips. And surprisingly, Uber tried to get away with it anyway by saying ‘The tip is included in the fare’ — but that would also mean they’re taking a percentage of the tip, if they’re taking 20% off the fare.”
Uber does have a system where 20% of the fare is added to the base calculations as a tip — that service is called UberTAXI. But drivers won’t get tipped as long as you’re in an UberX, UberBLACK, or UberSUV vehicle.
When Business Insider reached out for comment about Uber’s tipping practice, the company pointed to a section of its website called “Do I Have To Tip My Driver?,” which says:
Being Uber means there is no need to tip drivers with any of our services.
When using uberTAXI (requesting a ride from a cab via the Uber app, available in select cities), drivers will input the metered fare into the Uber driver application. A default 20% of the metered fare will be automatically added and paid to the driver as a gratuity. You can select the percentage amount of the gratuity by signing into your account at uber.com then clicking the ‘Payment’ link at the top.
Customers are confused about the tipping system.
"Unfortunately the customer still believes there is no need to tip because the tip is included. I routinely speak with my customers about the tip issue and everybody I have had this discussion — frankly, they’re shocked that there is no tip included," De Wolf Sandoval said.
"They insist that the tip is included, and that is what Uber has told them. Some of them felt that they have been misled and they’re angry with Uber because they feel like when they leave the Uber vehicle and they haven’t left a tip, really what they’re doing is appearing cheap or unconcerned about customary gratuity norms."
Introducing an option to tip within the Uber app, De Wolf Sandoval says, could solve many of the drivers’ complaints. “Even with the higher commission and lower fare, if the tips were back on the table, drivers feel they may be able to earn a livable wage,” he told us.
"They’re a technology company, they could certainly figure out how to change their application to allow tips. Lyft has done it and it doesn’t seem like it’s been a great technological hurdle to jump. And you know, I recently read that Uber hired Lyft’s former COO. So it seems to me that if Uber can’t figure out how to add a tip to their phone app, maybe they can hire someone from Lyft who can."
Uber drivers we spoke to seem to agree that the rating system is generally a good thing: It keeps drivers in check, and it’s one of the biggest differences between taking a cab and taking Uber. You have a pretty good idea what kind of service you’ll be getting based on a driver’s rating, and the driver knows what to expect based on a passenger’s rating.
Drivers also seem to appreciate that customers can very easily write comments about their experience to give valuable feedback to drivers. The system works to provide a way for customers to let Uber know about problematic drivers.
But the rating system is also dreaded by drivers because of how easy it is to fall below the “acceptable” rating Uber requires its drivers to meet or exceed.
"Drivers can potentially suffer a two-week timeout if they fall below 4.7 on the rating system, and they can be permanently deactivated if they fall below a 4.4," De Wolf Sandoval told us. “Customers, however, may continue to request rides even if their rating is below 2. I’ve picked up people who have had a rating of 1. So it’s a sword that only cuts one way.”
De Wolf Sandoval says drivers are always aware of the threat of a damaging one-star rating. In one case, he says, he picked up a customer running late for a flight out of LAX. The customer asked him to run a red light and speed, both things that violate traffic laws and California vehicle code. But if he didn’t do it, he risked getting a one-star rating, and potentially being deactivated from Uber’s system.
Drivers say they fear their customers as well.
"Drivers are subject to hostile environments and sexual harassment, assault, and being involved with people who are potentially dangerous, like extremely intoxicated people,” De Wolf Sandoval said.
"And the driver, essentially, has to grin and bear it. I’ve talked to female drivers who are hit on, sometimes actually touched by male customers who may have had too much to drink. Number one, they’re afraid of saying anything because they’re afraid of getting a bad rating. Number two, they financially can’t just stop and cancel the trip and ask them to get out, because then they have lost a potential fare that could mean the difference between a half tank of gas and a full tank of gas. And number three, the customer, if you do stop and ask them to exit the vehicle and you want to cancel the trip for whatever reason, they become violent."
De Wolf Sandoval suggests Uber could create an incentive system for drivers that provide excellent service.
"I would suggest that if a driver has a weekly rating above 4.9, Uber would take maybe 15% of the commission rather than 25% of the commission," De Wolf Sandoval said. “And this would certainly be an incentive for drivers to provide the very best service — because the very best service would affect them positively, financially, and not just as an avoidance to being punished.”
De Wolf Sandoval says Uber should meet with drivers — just not individually, as the company does now, but with groups, like his California App-Based Drivers Association, or the Uber Drivers Network NYC. De Wolf Sandoval would like Uber to listen to drivers’ complaints.
"The drivers’ representatives should be able to speak openly and freely and frankly about these issues, and without fear of retribution or deactivation,” he said. “You go to the website and talk to them and they say drivers are our partners. But none of the drivers I know, that I’ve spoken with feel like a true partner because the risks are not shared.
"The drivers are taking all the risks; they’re paying for their insurance, they’re paying for gas, maintenance, everything. And it seems like it’s a one-sided partnership."
De Wolf Sandoval cited the recent example of Google bucking the independent contractor trend and hiring its security guards as employees. He doesn’t know if it’s possible for Uber to do the same thing, though.
"Uber’s whole business model is built around having other people take the risks as independent contractors. And I don’t know if they can change that; it’s built into their business model. It’s how they’re making so much money,” he said.
"And from my perspective and CADA’s perspective, it seems it’s a gray area right now, whether we’re truly independent contractors or employees. Because Uber does exercise quite a bit of control over how the drivers conduct their day to day basis. They really are reaching quite a bit behind that driver’s wheel in how the driver does business. It’s something that I’m sure will be looked at more closely because it is a pressing issue.”
In a lot of science fiction, artificial intelligence systems become truly intelligent — as well as extremely dangerous — once they achieve self-awareness.
Take the “Terminator” series. Before becoming self-aware, Skynet is a powerful tool for the US military to coordinate the national defense; after becoming self-aware, Skynet decides, for some reason, to coordinate the destruction of the human species instead.
But how important is self-awareness, really, in creating an artificial mind on par with ours? According to quantum computing pioneer and Oxford physicist David Deutsch, not very.
In an excellent article in Aeon, Deutsch explores why artificial general intelligence (AGI) must be possible, but hasn’t yet been achieved. He calls it AGI to emphasize that he’s talking about a mind like ours, that can think and feel and reason about anything, as opposed to a complex computer program that’s very good at one or a few human-like tasks.
Simply put, his argument explaining why AGI is possible is this: Since our brains are made of matter, it must be possible, in principle at least, to recreate the functionality of our brains using another type of matter. (Deutsch provided a rigorous proof for this idea, known as “the universality of computation” in the 1980s.)
As for Skynet, Deutsch writes:
Remember the significance attributed to Skynet’s becoming ‘self-aware’? That’s just another philosophical misconception, sufficient in itself to block any viable approach to AGI. The fact is that present-day software developers could straightforwardly program a computer to have ‘self-awareness’ in the behavioural sense — for example, to pass the ‘mirror test’ of being able to use a mirror to infer facts about itself — if they wanted to. As far as I am aware, no one has done so, presumably because it is a fairly useless ability as well as a trivial one.
In other words, the issue is not self-awareness — it’s awareness, period. We could make a machine to be “self-aware” in a technical sense, and it wouldn’t possess any more human-level intelligence than a computer that’s programmed to play the piano. Viewed this way, self-awareness is just another narrow, arbitrary skill — not the Holy Grail it’s made out to be in a lot of science fiction.
As Deutsch puts it:
AGIs will indeed be capable of self-awareness — but that is because they will be General: they will be capable of awareness of every kind of deep and subtle thing, including their own selves.
So why does this matter? Isn’t this just another harmless sci-fi trope? Not exactly.
If we really want to create artificial intelligence, we have to understand what it is we’re trying to create. Deutsch persuasively argues that, as long as we’re focused on self-awareness, we won’t focus on understanding how our brains actually work.
What matters, Deutsch argues, is “the ability to create new explanations,” to generate theories about the world and all its particulars. In contrast with this, the idea that self-awareness — let alone real intelligence — will spontaneously emerge from a complex computer network is not just science fiction. It’s pure fantasy.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer appeared on “CBS This Morning" talking about his new job as owner of the L.A. Clippers.
One thing that strikes us: how obviously happy he is. He had the whole staff of CBS cracking up.
It reminds us of the other former CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates, who is also extremely happy to be mostly focused on philanthropy. Gates, who is chairman, spends about one-third of his time at Microsoft since Satya Nadella took over as CEO.
Ballmer was loath to give up his job as CEO of Microsoft, which also made him happy. “CBS This Morning” anchor Charlie Rose asked point blank if he was pushed out, and he said no.
"No one wanted me to leave as CEO. We had a lot of ‘tough’ discussions about whether to buy Nokia. It’s a big decision for a software company … I think it’s been well chronicled. We had some ‘dust-up’ type discussions,” he said describing board-level talks about the $7 billion acquisition.
At the time, Ballmer believed there were only two options, he told “CBS This Morning”: Buy Nokia and stay through a transition. Or, if the board wanted, not buy it. Ballmer apparently flew into a rage at a board meeting at the thought that the board would reject his Nokia acquisition, according to BusinessWeek. But, Microsoft CEOs have a long history of flying into rages.
Ballmer then decided that a third option existed: buying Nokia and handing it off to a new CEO, he told the “CBS This Morning” crew.
The events leading up to his exit reportedly broke his relationship with Gates. Gates and Ballmer are no longer on speaking terms, according to a Vanity Fair profile of Microsoft published earlier this month.
When CBS asked him about Gates, Ballmer indicated that the two were still on the outs.
"We’ve dusted-up many times in our lives. That kind of stuff happens. We’ve done that before," he said and then refused to talk more about it.
He’s still got power at the company. As Gates systematically sells off his Microsoft stake, Ballmer recently became Microsoft’s single largest shareholder, with a 4% stake. And, Ballmer’s got no plans to sell, he’s said many times.
But in August, after he bought the Clippers, he opted to give up his Microsoft board seat and “move on,” he says.
Ballmer also talked candidly about other things:
Why did he spend $2 billion for the Clippers (three times more than anyone had ever paid for an NBA franchise)? It was his third attempt to buy a basketball team.
"I paid what I had to pay. I tried [to buy a basketball team] before. It’s like everything. It’s version 3 before we get it right," he laughed. "I came wanting the team. I had no clue how to do this. It all got cobbled together. … I knew what I was willing to pay."
"Satya spoke about his personal experience," Ballmer told the "CBS This Morning" crew. "But you do have people that don’t necessarily get a fair shake through the process. Particularly a group of women in technology, that’s probably a tougher place to be. So relating his personal experience, probably not what that group needed to hear at that time, despite that it would be a nice world if it did work out that way."
He also added, “Satya showed he’s a lovely human being.”
It’s a great interview. Take a look:
The burgeoning business of eSports has attracted a huge number of big name advertisers over the years, with major companies from auto brands to energy drinks to electronics getting in on the action as an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the desperately sought after 18-25 demographic.
LinkedIn’s latest ratings of the 100 most in-demand employers have Google at No. 1, Apple at No. 2, and all sorts of surprises farther down the list.
Is Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s long-stalled turnaround attempt finally starting to work? It’s still way too early to say, but in today’s third-quarter earnings report came a glimmering of hope. After many quarters of falling revenues, the long-struggling Internet company finally reported sales growth and a higher-than expected profit thanks partly to surging sales of mobile ads.
Samsung upgrades the Galaxy S5 and the new ‘Galaxy S5 Plus’ is a rocket ship.
Joe Weisenthal, executive editor of Business Insider, is leaving the company.
Weisenthal is going to Bloomberg, where he’ll host a TV show and develop a news site about the markets.
He has been with Business Insider for six years.
When he joined in the fall of 2008, Business Insider did not exist yet.
We asked him why he’s leaving.
"I love BI and I never thought of leaving," he said. "But Josh Tyrangiel at Bloomberg put together an offer that no journalist could pass up."
It has been widely reported that Mark Halperin and John Heilemann are being paid over $1 million a year to host a show on politics for Bloomberg.
Business Insider editor-in-chief just sent out this email to Business Insider staff:
I have some bittersweet news.
Joe Weisenthal will be leaving us this week to pursue an amazing opportunity at Bloomberg. Joe will be the host of a new financial TV show and the editor of a new markets and economics site that Bloomberg plans to launch next year.
Joe has contributed a huge amount to Business Insider in the past 6 years.
Joe joined us as a junior writer on our Finance section during the financial crisis. His talent, dedication, voice, news judgement, and unbridled enthusiasm for our medium quickly became apparent. As we grew, we eagerly gave Joe more and more responsibility, and for the last few years, he has helped lead the newsroom as Deputy Editor and Executive Editor. Over this period, our readership has quadrupled.
We are sad to say goodbye to Joe, but we will always encourage our colleagues to pursue great opportunities, here and elsewhere, and this is an amazing one. Happily, we also now have by far the strongest editorial team we have ever had.
Please join me in congratulating Joe. We wish him all the best.
(Sydney is arranging drinks tomorrow evening for a proper good-bye. Details to follow.)
Joe sent out this response:
Thanks Henry and thanks to all of you! The last 6 years have been a thrill and I’m going to miss it here tremendously.
Here is the earliest photo I could find of Joe from my iPhone.
It’s from the summer of 2009, back when Business Insider was only a few months old.
Here’s Joe, back when he was a mere deputy editor, sitting next to his first intern, Gus Lubin.
Lubin is also now an executive editor at Business Insider:
Here’s one of Weisenthal in a hat:
Here he is doing one of his favorite things, looking at a menu full of Chinese food:
Here is a video from way back when, where Joe answers questions about himself and early Business Insider:
We are going to miss Joe a lot.
Something tells me he will also miss us!