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Apple search crawler activity could signal a Google competitor, or a bid to make Siri a one-stop-shop – TechCrunch

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Apple search crawler activity could signal a Google competitor, or a bid to make Siri a one-stop-shop – TechCrunch

Encouraged by the spate of antitrust activity brewing in both the Justice Department and on Capitol Hill, Apple may be developing a search competitor to Google, according to a report in the Financial Times.

That would be a move ripe with irony as the push for an end to anti-competitive practices is seemingly creating greater competition among the largest companies which already dominate the technology industry rather than between those established companies and more nimble upstarts.

Signs of Apple’s resurgent interest in search technologies can be found in both a subtle but significant change to the latest version of the iOS 14 iPhone operating system and increasing activity from Apple’s spidering tools that are used to scour the web and refine search functionality, the Financial Times reported.

Apple is now showing its own search results and linking directly to websites when users type queries from its home screen in iOS 14. For context, this is a behavior that has been known for a while as people have seen the feature pop up in beta versions of iOS. And the search volume being up on Apple’s crawler is something that Jon Henshaw of Coywolf had noted back in August.

Sources cited by the Financial Times said that the change marked a significant step-change in Apple’s in-house search development and could be the basis for a broader push into search.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company certainly has the expertise. A little less than three years ago it nabbed Google’s head of search, John Giannandrea in what was widely seen as an attempt to shore up Apple’s foundations in artificial intelligence and voice search via Siri. Because of the way that Apple is organized internally, it’s unlikely that Giannandrea will be devoting full-time effort to both a potential “search product” and Siri . But it’s within the realm of possibility that he could be lending his expertise to a team working on a separate feature.

Any development of a search tool would be a third way for Apple, which now uses Google as its default search service thanks to a lucrative contract between the two (one that’s also at the heart of a Justice Department inquiry into Google’s purported anti-competitive activities around search). The only other major search services on the market rely on Microsoft’s Bing to power their results.

While the signs do point to an actual uptick in activity, there could be an explanation for Apple’s crawler activity that’s less heavy on corporate skunkworks skulduggery and more in line with goals that Apple’s stated pretty clearly.

While the story about Apple getting into direct competition with Google on search makes for a great headline, the uptick in activity could be explained equally as rationally by Siri getting more search queries and being more of an interlocutor between Apple and search services like Google or Microsoft’s Bing. This disintermediation is something that Google began years ago and has even modified and expanded over the years to combat the same kind of behavior from Siri.

Some of this comes down to semantics. By “search engine” do we mean “a web site that people type queries into” or do we mean a voice assistant that steps in to white-label web results with its own sourcing. Cutting down on the brand presence of a monster like Google on your own platform is a powerful motivator for any competitor, no matter the space.

Making Siri a one-stop-shop could inoculate Apple in the scenario where they are forced to enable a search provider choice in the iOS onboarding flow by regulation. It won’t do anything to help Google though, who pays Apple billions because iOS users are worth way more than any other mobile web users to its business. Google, for its part, says that when people have a choice they still pick Google anyway. Perhaps another reason why making Siri the search equivalent of an overtalker is the strong play for Apple.

TechCrunch has reached out to Apple for comment and will update when we hear back.

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Bitcoin Jumps to All-Time High of Over $19,800 Amid Increased Demand

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Bitcoin Jumps to All-Time High of Over $19,800 Amid Increased Demand

Bitcoin soared to a record high against the dollar on Monday, as its 2020 rally steamed ahead, boosted by increased demand from both institutional and retail investors that saw the virtual currency as a safe-haven and a hedge against inflation.

The digital unit touched an all-time peak of $19,864.15 (roughly Rs. 15 lakhs), breaking its prior record set nearly three years ago. It was last up 6.1 percent at $19,306.35 (roughly Rs. 14.2 lakhs).

Last Friday, however, bitcoin dropped more than 8 percent, below $17,000 (roughly Rs. 12.5 lakhs), before rebounding on Monday.

Bitcoin overall has gained more than 170 percent this year, fuelled by a demand for riskier assets amid unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus, hunger for assets perceived as resistant to inflation, and expectations that cryptocurrencies would win mainstream acceptance.

“Bitcoin is a natural safe haven for those seeking shelter from rapidly increasing central bank money printing and the inflation that everyone agrees is already increasing,” said Sergey Nazarov, co-founder of Chainlink, a decentralised network that provides data to smart contracts on the blockchain.

Smaller coins ethereum and XRP, which often move in tandem with bitcoin, gained 5.6 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively.

Christopher Bendiksen, head of research at CoinShares, also cited continued corporate and institutional interest as well as post-Thanksgiving retail demand for bitcoin’s renewed surge.

“While circumstantial, price action really started picking up speed when the US woke up this morning, which could reflect buying pressure from retail-oriented platforms such as Square’s CashApp, Robinhood and PayPal,” he added.

Square’s Cash App and PayPal, which recently launched a crypto service to its more than 300 million users, have been scooping up all new bitcoins, hedge fund Pantera Capital said in its letter to investors a fee weeks ago. That has caused a bitcoin shortage and has driven the rally in the last few weeks.

Bitcoin’s 12-year history has been peppered with steep gains and equally sharp drops. Compared to traditional assets, its market is highly opaque.

Analysts say the bitcoin market has evolved since 2017, now boasting a functioning derivatives market and custody services by major financial firms.

The shifts have made it easier for professional investors from hedge funds to family offices to seek exposure to crypto, and as a result markets are, in general, more liquid and less volatile.

Bitcoin’s march to its prior peak, reached after frenzied buying by retail investors from Japan to the United States, saw the cryptocurrency gain over 250 percent in just 35 days before losing 70 percent of its value in less than two months after its December 2017 high.

© Thomson Reuters 2020
 


iPhone 12 Pro Series Is Amazing, but Why Is It So Expensive in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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Henry picks up cash to be a Lambda School for Latin America – TechCrunch

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Henry picks up cash to be a Lambda School for Latin America – TechCrunch

Latin America’s startup scene has attracted troves of venture investment, lifting highly-valued companies such as Rappi and NuBank into behemoth businesses. Now that the spotlight has arrived, those same startups need more talent than ever before to meet demand.

That’s where one seed-stage Buenos-Aires startup wants to help. Henry has created an online computer science school that trains software developers from low-income backgrounds to understand technical skills and get employed. The company was founded by brother-sister duo Luz and Martin Borchardt, as well as Manuel Barna Ferrés, Antonio Tralice, and Leonardo Maglia.

The Henry team.

The company claims that there’s an estimated 1 million software engineering job openings in Latin America, but less than 100,000 professionals that have training suitable for those roles.

“Higher education is only for 13 percent of the population in Latin America,” says Martin Borchardt, CEO and co-founder of Henry . “It’s very exclusive, very expensive, and has very low impact skills. So we’re giving these people an opportunity.”

With 90% of graduates coming from no formal higher education background, Henry seeks to help bring more back-end junior developers and full-stack developers into startups. Henry offers a five-month long course that goes from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m to 6 p.m., which focuses on software developer skills. Beyond technical training, Henry gives participants job coaching, resume workshops, and up-skilling opportunities post-graduation.

To make the school more affordable, Henry looks to take on the same strategy used by Lambda School, a YC-graduate that has raised over $122 million in known funding: income-share agreements. The set-up would allow for boot camp participants to join the program at 0 upfront costs, and then only pay once they get hired at a job.

Lambda School’s ISA terms ask students to pay 17% of their monthly salary for 24 months once they earn $4,167 monthly. The students pay a maximum of $30,000. Henry takes a much smaller slice of the pie, partly because salaries are lower in Latin American than in the United States. Henry asks students to pay 15% of their monthly salary for 24 months once students earn $500 a month.

If a Henry student doesn’t get employed in a job that allows them to make $500 a month within 5 years after the program completes, they are off the hook for paying the bootcamp back.

Henry is also focused is helping more women get into the field of software development. Internally, Henry’s remote team is 20% women, 64% men. The current students reflect the same break down.

One issue with coding bootcamps is that while it might help a student go from unemployed to employed, the lack of credential and degree might limit career mobility past that first job. For that reason, Henry has created a database of alumni resources, including up-skilling and reskilling opportunities in the latest skill that will be free of charge for graduates.

Henry needs to execute on job placement to be successful in its field. Currently, over 80% of students in Henry’s first cohort have found jobs, but it’s too soon in the startups’ trajectory to get a stronger metric on that front. About 4 Henry graduates have been employed by the startup.

The need for more talent in emerging countries has not gone unnoticed. Microverse, also funded by Y Combinator, is similarly using income-sharing agreements to bring education to the masses in developing countries, including spaces in Latin America. Henry thinks the competitor is approaching the dynamic too broadly.

“They’re focusing on all emerging markets and don’t teach to Spanish speakers,” Borchardt said. Henry, alternatively, focuses on Spanish speakers, over 60% of its market in Latin America.

What if Lambda School, the source of Henry’s inspiration, was to break into Latin America? The founder added that the richly-funded company has tried, and failed, to expand into international geographies including China and Europe due to fragmentation.

Currently, Henry has graduated 200 students and is working with 600 students across Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina. It plans to expand into Mexico and bring on Portuguese instruction.

Now, VCs are giving Henry some cash to do so. After going through Y Combinator’s Summer batch, Henry announced today that it has raised $1.5 million in seed funding in a round led by Accion Venture Lab. Emles Venture Partners, Noveus VC. There were also a number of edtech angel investors from Latin American who participated in the round.

“I love the human interaction within instructors and our staff and students,” Borchardt said. “That is something very powerful of Henry compared to a MOOC. The biggest challenge is how do you scale maintaining those assets that bring you that?”

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Best August smart locks deal: Save $104 at Amazon

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Best August smart locks deal: Save $104 at Amazon

All products featured here are independently selected by our editors and writers.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

Never forget to lock the door when you upgrade to an August smart lock.

Image: August

Save $104: This kit, which includes the August Smart Lock Pro, Connect WiFi Bridge, and Smart Keypad, is on sale for $185.98 at Amazon as of Dec. 3. 


Few things are more stressful than wondering if you remembered to lock the door while you’re out on a grocery run. That’s why a smart lock is one of the most helpful smart home devices you can own. And for more complete security, you can buy this special bundle on sale from a trustworthy brand.

The August Smart Lock Pro with Connect WiFi Bridge and bonus Smart Keypad is on sale for just $185.98 at Amazon. At $104 off the regular price, this is the best price we’ve seen on this kit. 

Once it arrives, installation should be a breeze. The August Smart Lock Pro will retrofit with most of your standard single cylinder deadbolts in less than 10 minutes with a screwdriver. From there, just follow the steps in the August Home app to create personal settings to control and monitor your door from anywhere when you plug in the Connect WiFi Bridge.

From there, it’ll be super easy to conveniently lock and unlock your door, allow keyless access, and track who comes and goes with a 24/7 activity feed. It even remembers to automatically lock whenever you leave. For bonus security, you can even set up biometric verification that operates your lock via fingerprint or facial recognition. 

The August Smart Keypad adds a final layer of security. Mount it outside by your door and create unique codes on your smartphone to allow for code-based entry. It’s a great bonus that allows for extra convenience if you have kids or guests who need quick access. 

If you want to stay safe this holiday season, consider the August Smart Lock Pro kit on sale for $185.98 at Amazon. 

This August smart lock kit is on sale for $185 — its lowest price ever

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