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Apple’s ground game versus Google’s long game

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WWDC 2019: Finally, Apple frees the iPad and Watch from iPhone’s shadow
Can the iPad now become a serious business tool? Are the iPad and Mac platforms headed toward unification? Will developers take the time to get it right? TechRepublic’s Karen Roby gets some answers from Jason Perlow and Jason Cipriani. Read more: https://zd.net/2Wlin3A

Every year, Apple’s and Google’s developer conferences offer an opportunity to assess the priorities of the companies that control the vast majority of the world’s smartphone operating systems. While Google’s infamous penchant for distraction has pointed the way to where computing may be heading, its failure to expand device dominance beyond smartphones and Chromebooks has given Apple a window to build leadership in other smart product categories.

Having declared a few years ago that AI was overshadowing mobile, Google tends to talk about core improvements in its services with Maps, for example, as a particularly strong focus area.The company also tends to make spotty forays into uncharted territory. Among the casualties: Daydream, the Nexus Q, the Jump VR camera rig, Clips camera, OnHub routers, the early-to-market Project Tango, and the late-to-market Allo.

Also: How Salesforce got its developer conference right, while Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Google lost their way 

But all of these can almost be redeemed by breakthroughs such as the Duplex appointment-making capabilities of Google Assistant and its promising app-navigating cousin. Whether they be tops, flops or even have much relevance to developers, Google’s IO announcements have come to generate anticipation of boundary-pushing tech wizardry.

In contrast, Apple’s WWDC developer events have come to revolve around their four (now five) operating system pillars, each strongly coupled to a specific device. Even the scope of the announcements has fallen into a pattern, with TVOS getting relatively small bumps, WatchOS receiving more significant changes, and iOS and MacOS getting the most attention. Future versions of iPadOS will likely contend for that level of attention as well even though it will likely share many iOS improvements for some time. This all makes sense. Even with WatchOS becoming a more independent platform, the iPhone, iPad and Mac offer far richer and broader capabilities. Improving proficiency with these platforms draws the overwhelming majority of WWDC developer attendees.

Apple also spends some time focusing on a few of its core cross-device technologies such as Siri and, especially this year, ARKit. But the company’s continuous improvements across its device family has allowed it to take strong leads in virtually every adjacent category to the smartphone. This was first demonstrated as the polished iPad interface pulled far ahead of support for Android tablets — so far ahead that Google itself has moved away from Android on its latest tablet. But it’s also been the case for TVOS and WatchOS and is taking shape with Apple’s latest field where the company has outperformed Google: its popular AirPods versus Google’s forgotten Pixel Buds.

Even as Google ramps up its hardware efforts to avoid some of its past mistakes and sees more success with its own branded smartphones, it is making bets on AI and cloud to circumvent Apple’s PC-derived paradigm — a legacy that a proactive, cloud-based agent could eventually render irrelevant. Increasingly, though, it will have to do this across dominant device classes designed by Apple in California.

PREVIOUS AND RELATED COVERAGE

WWDC 2019: Apple’s Project Catalyst brings iPad apps to the Mac
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iPadOS pushes Apple’s tablet closer to mainstream PC replacement
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Google Duplex: What it is and what Google’s doing next
How Google’s AI wants to make your life easier. Here’s what we know.

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Fortnite’s mystery ‘superstar’ virtual music tour kicks off next week – TechCrunch

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Epic Games is teasing the biggest in-game event since Travis Scott psychedelically stomped through Fortnite’s virtual meadows.

The mysterious new event, which Fortnite-maker Epic is calling the “Rift Tour,” will kick off on Friday, August 6 and run through Sunday, August 8. In the teaser announcement, Epic invites players to “take a musical journey into magical new realities where Fortnite and a record-breaking superstar collide.”

In-game events building up to the mystery show series will run from July 29 through August 8, so players can hop into Fortnite to check out new Rift Tour-themed quests and rewards now. The cotton-candy-colored event will offer a custom loading screen and a fluffy cloud kitty emoticon, among other digital prizes.

The Rift Tour isn’t a one-and-done event. Like the Travis Scott event, Fortnite will host five different show times across three days to make it easier for players to catch. Epic says they’ll have more details to share on Monday, August 2, so Fortnite players will have to wait for more hints or an official announcement about who’s performing.

So … who’s performing? So far, all signs point to Ariana Grande. Leakers have been saying as much for more than a week, and the documents revealed through Epic’s court battle with Apple also detailed plans for in-game events with both Grande and Lady Gaga.

Image Credits: Epic Games

At Forbes, Paul Tassi also connected the dots on how recent leaks point to Grande, including some visual themes from her music videos and a reference to her pet pig Piggy Smalls.

Since Epic is calling its latest virtual event a tour, that suggests Grande won’t be alone, if she is indeed the mystery superstar. A Lady Gaga appearance could also be in the cards, since Epic apparently had plans for Gaga to appear in a December 2020 concert that never materialized. Kanye West is also releasing his newest album on August 6, but it seems less likely that Epic would be willing to partner with West given his myriad recent controversies. And “Donda,” West’s latest album, was originally scheduled for a different date before being delayed.

Whoever it winds up being, we’ll likely know more on Monday. Even if you’re not a Grande fan or a regular gamer, Fortnite’s in-game concerts are some of the most creative and visually exciting virtual events to date.

Everyone should fall through the metaverse with their friends while a skyscraper-sized virtual rapper shoots neon lightning bolts at least once.

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Why companies and brands need to tune in – TechCrunch

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What comes to mind when you think of livestreaming? In the U.S., most people would name their favorite celebrity leading a Q&A on Instagram or a gamer doing a speedrun on Twitch.

In China, it’s shopping, streamed live.

Livestream e-commerce has taken off in China in the last few years and is expected to yield more than $60 billion this year. In 2019, 37% of online shoppers in China (a cool 265 million people) made purchases on livestreams — and that was well before quarantine. In 2020, it’s estimated to have reached around 560 million people.

During Taobao’s annual Single’s Day Global Shopping Festival in 2020 (China’s Black Friday), livestreams accounted for $6 billion in sales — nearly doubled from a year earlier.

Starting to see a trend? The big U.S. companies have noticed, and they’re jumping on the bandwagon faster than you can say, “Swipe up to buy now!”

Last December, Walmart livestreamed shopping events on TikTok. Amazon released a live platform where influencers promote items and chat with customers. Instagram launched a Shop feature that encourages users to browse and buy within the app. Facebook also kicked off Live Shopping Fridays for the beauty and fashion categories.

“It’s an entertaining way for shops to tell the story behind their products. It brings buyers closer than ever to their favorite creators and allows them to have a voice in the conversation.”

Startups are growing fast to keep up with the heavy hitters — PopShop.Live raised $20 million to let people buy everything from books and toys to jewelry from sellers who livestream their offerings, and Whatnot raised a $50 million Series B, largely to expand its livestream commerce infrastructure. There’s also a burgeoning category of SaaS tools such as Bambuser, which is working with brands like Klarna to test native livestream shopping directly within branded apps.

At this pace, retailers will all welcome livestream commerce teams like they have influencer partnerships in recent years. It’ll just be part of the digital equation to stay competitive and relevant in the future of marketplaces and e-commerce.

From B.C. to 5G: The evolution of shopping

What is old is new again. Your grandparents spent years watching QVC because it balanced the experience of speaking with an associate with the convenience of their retirement community’s TV room. Livestream is today’s version of “shoptainment,” where hosts showcase products dynamically, interact with their audiences and build urgency with short-term offers, giveaways and limited-edition items.

Now, with livestream commerce, hosts can form deeper customer connections and answer questions in real time. It’s a new standard of communication that holds a longstanding truth from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to smartphones: People shop to kill time and are more likely to buy when they feel connected with a salesperson.

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Twitter shuttering NY, SF offices in response to new CDC guidelines – TechCrunch

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Just two weeks after reopening its New York and San Francisco offices, social media giant Twitter said Wednesday that it will be closing those offices “immediately.”

The decision came “after careful consideration of the CDC’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions,” a spokesperson said.

“Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately. We’re continuing to closely monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritize the health and safety of our Tweeps,” the spokesperson added.

The company initially just reopened those offices on July 12. It declined to reveal headcount per office.

The CDC this week recommended that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid transmission rates amid concerns about the highly contagious Delta variant.

Earlier today, TechCrunch’s Brian Heater reported that Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to work on-site. It was part of a larger letter sent to Google/Alphabet staff that also noted the company will be extending its work-from-home policy through October 18, as the COVID-19 delta variant continues to sweep through the global population.

In a message to TechCrunch, Facebook’s VP of People, Lori Goler, confirmed a similar policy for the social media behemoth.

Amazon also responded to TechCrunch’s inquiry on the matter, noting, “We strongly encourage Amazon employees and contractors to be vaccinated as soon as COVID-19 vaccines are available to them.”

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