It’s the first Monday back from the long turkey nap, and we’re here to cut through the brain grease with a quick-hit news rundown.
Chug an extra cup o’ joe, clear out the cobwebs, and catch up on these headlines. Let’s power through to 2019, people.
‘This is Alexa, reporting from the field’
Amazon is using AI to develop new speaking styles for Alexa, including a “newscaster voice” (you’re not crazy, all newscasters do sound the same), because according to Amazon’s research, Alexa’s voice is still a little too artificial for users who want to listen to their morning news.
Microsoft passes Apple and Amazon as most valuable US company
As hardware sales slump and big tech stocks take a hit, a dark horse has come from behind in the outside lane: Microsoft. After all the hubbub about Apple passing $1T in market cap in August, Microsoft has surpassed it to become the most valuable company in the US at $753B.
Ohio blazes the bitcoin trail
Ohio isn’t known for being on the screaming bleeding edge of technology, but it’s now an early adopter of bitcoin. Yesterday, the 34th largest state in the US became the first to accept the volatile coin for tax payments.
Speaking of crypto… Overstock sets a date to sell off its retail biz
After what feels like a decade of threatening to shelf their current business for crypto, Overstock’s CEO says he will finally shut down its retail business in February. And people are more bullish on blockchain than bed sets: Its stock surged 26% after the news.
Venmo is getting used and abused
Venmo’s companywide losses were 40% larger than expected due to increasing fraud. Venmo’s transaction volume grew from $1.3B in the first three months of 2015 to $12.3B in the same period this year. The company has attempted to limit fraud losses by rolling back features.
Predictim babysits the babysitter
A startup called Predictim scans potential babysitters’ social media footprints using advanced AI to create “risk ratings” that help parents find sitters with the “right attitude.” Automated character evaluations are becoming common in the “parental outsourcing” industry.
Starbucks takes its joe to ‘grounds zero’ — Italy
It took 47 years for Starbucks to open its first shop in the birthplace of espresso (its first Italian roastery, opened in September, features marble and hand-carved floors). Last week, Big ’Bucks opened 2 more stores in Italy and announced plans to open 15 more Italian stores this year.
Well played, Cards Against Humanity…
The irreverent cardmakers played another winning hand last week, offering a random smattering of items (from a used 2015 Ford Fiesta to an actual diamond) for 99% off. They definitely lost money on the stunt, but the viral sale cemented CAH’s status as copywriting legends.