TechSummit Rewind 160

Intel buying Mobileye for $15.3B, Yahoo CEO Mayer to get $23M in severance, & Pandora Premium prepares for launch

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Intel buying Mobileye for $15.3B

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Intel is buying Israeli computer vision company Mobileye for $15.3 billion, per Mobileye.

Intel is offering $63.54/share in cash for the company.

“This acquisition is a great step forward for our shareholders, the automotive industry, and consumers. Intel provides critical foundational technologies for autonomous driving, including plotting the car’s path and making real-time driving decisions. Mobileye brings the industry’s best automotive-grade computer vision and strong momentum with automakers and suppliers. Together, we can accelerate the future of autonomous driving with improved performance in a cloud-to-car solution at a lower cost for automakers.”

-Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO

The new unit will include Mobileye and Intel’s Automated Driving Group and will be headed by Mobileye co-founder and CTO Amnon Shashua from Israel. The transaction is expected to close within the next nine months.

“By pooling together our infrastructure and resources, we can enhance and accelerate our combined know-how in the areas of mapping, virtual driving, simulators, development tool chains, hardware, data centers and high-performance computing platforms. Together, we will provide an attractive value proposition for the automotive industry.”

-Ziv Aviram, Mobileye co-founder and CEO

Yahoo CEO Mayer to get $23M severance package after Verizon deal closes

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Marissa Mayer, who is set to lose her job as Yahoo’s CEO after the closing of Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo’s operating businesses, will get a golden parachute package worth around $23 million, per a Yahoo regulatory filing.

Per the company, former IAC CFO Thomas McInerney will take over as CEO of the company after the Verizon deal closing, which is expected sometime in Q2. At that point, the company will change its name to Altaba Inc., with its major assets including its shares of Alibaba.

In addition, CFO Ken Goldman will be replaced by Yahoo VP and global controller Alexi Wellman.

When she’s terminated as CEO, Mayer will receive $3 million in cash, $20 million in equity, and $25,000 in medical-coverage benefits, per a Yahoo SEC filing.

Under their severance agreements, chief revenue officer Lisa Utzschneider would receive $16.5 million (including $14.7 million in equity) and Goldman would receive $9.5 million (including $7.8 million in equity).

Pandora Premium’s ready for prime time

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Just three months after announcing its plans, Pandora is ready to launch its full-fledged Premium on-demand music service.

For the most part, it’s everything you’d expect it to be: a $10/month subscription with millions of songs that you can listen to and save offline whenever you want. There are workout and driving mixes and – naturally – a  radio feature. However, Pandora has added a slew of personalization features and a simple experience that can be more approachable than Apple Music and Spotify.

“Today it’s just 30 million songs in a search box, essentially. I think that can be appealing to a small segment of the population, but for most people that’s just overwhelming; it’s hard work.”

-Tim Westergren, Pandora CEO

The first thing you’ll notice in Pandora Premium is that it takes less clicks to start playing music compared to Apple Music and Spotify. The app launches into My Music, which features a carousel of recently played albums and stations that can be played with one tap (that command requires multiple taps on Apple Music and Spotify).

Below the carousel is a list of all your saved music, sorted in reverse chronological order. You can also sort between album, artist, and song lists if you want, but the option’s hidden in a drop-down menu.

Simplicity is a key focus on Premium, with huge influence coming from Rdio, whose assets were purchased by Pandora just over 15 months ago. There’s big album artwork and a minimalistic look with clean, white lines that combine to form an intuitive design that will make it easy for new and current Pandora users to pick up quickly.

Pandora is also handling its catalog differently than other streaming services. While it has access to the same over 40 million song catalog as Apple Music and Spotify, it is curating the catalog to get rid of karaoke, tributes, and duplicate tracks to help improve search.

However, there are also a few quirks to get used to. Pandora Premium doesn’t have pre-generated playlists, instead relying heavily on its radio stations without restrictions.

To fix the inevitable issue of creating playlists from radio stations with four or fly songs, Premium introduces an “add similar songs” feature that will add three to seven songs to your playlist at the click of a button. The algorithm will determine a handful of songs you’d enjoy based on the current content of your playlist.

Pandora has taken the musical analysis and data science that powers its radio stations and used it to cluster songs that work well together and combine with your musical taste to offer a small collection of songs every time you tap the magic wand.

“Sequencing is such an important part. It’s not just grabbing the right music to put into a playlist for you, it’s also organizing it and sequencing it so it flows. Those are really important qualities when you want to have a listening experience that just works. Just grabbing a bunch of recommendations of songs and throwing it in front of you still requires you as the user to do work. Our whole aim was to do it for you.”

-Chris Phillips, Pandora chief product officer

The best part is that it learns your preferences as you keep or remove the songs it adds.

“If you delete all four [recommendations] but leave one in there, that’s a pretty strong signal that you like that one song. There’s a lot of really delicate constant learning going on around how you feel about those recommendations. If you delete it, we will learn right away.”

-Chris Phillips

Other features aimed at novices include a toggle to hide explicit music on radio stations and in search, a New Music section tailored to your tastes, Ticketfly integration for buying tickets to your favorite acts, and a My Thumbs Up playlist that includes every song you’ve ever liked.

However, gaps remain. There’s no way to edit the “up next” queue. There won’t be a desktop or iPad app at launch (a web app is in the pipeline). Echo support is coming, but it’s not there yet.

“We’re really going to be just maniacally focused on what really enhances the experience for everything. There will be power user capabilities. Will video appear on Pandora? That’s been on our list for a long time. But it’s more about what are the right things to do next and in what order, to make the product better and keep it simple. That’s our guiding philosophy.”

-Tim Westergren

The company hopes to become the very best – like no one ever was – with around 6-9 million Premium subscribers by the end of the year.

“We have very grand ambitions for what this can be. If we look around at the space right now, we just don’t think that there’s a product that’s done it right. No one has solved the ease of use and personalization part of the on-demand world. I don’t think there’s really a true premium product out there yet… we think we’re bringing something really different here.”

-Tim Westergren

Pandora has opted for a staggered rollout plan for Premium on iOS and Android. Existing Pandora free can test out Premium free for two months, with invites to the trial beginning to roll out tomorrow (Mar. 15). Pandora Plus users can try out Premium free for six months. Non-Pandora users can have access to the two-month free trial by signing up here, with invitations rolling out in mid-April.

Facebook tells developers not to use data for surveillance

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In response to pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change and the Center for Media Justice, Facebook announced that it will clarify its developer policy to explicitly prohibit the use of Facebook or Instagram data in surveillance tools.

The ACLU has revealed several instances of developers using information gleaned from Facebook’s APIs to create surveillance tools for law enforcement, and each time, Facebook has decided to revoke access to its data.

Facebook has contended that this kind of surveillance is already against its policies, but its policy was revamped today to state that developers can’t “use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.”

“Our goal is to make our policy explicit. Over the past several months we have taken enforcement action against developers who created and marketed tools meant for surveillance, in violation of our existing policies; we want to be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply.”

-Rob Sherman, Facebook deputy chief privacy officer

Facebook has cut ties with a few developers that make surveillance tools, and has worked with several others to bring their apps into compliance with the policy.

“We commend Facebook and Instagram for this step and call on all companies who claim to value diversity and justice to also stand up and do what’s needed to limit invasive social media surveillance from being used to target black and brown people in low-income communities.”

-Brandi Collins, Color of Change campaign director

However, just because Facebook says surveillance is banned doesn’t mean that developers will listen.

According to the ACLU, Color of Change, and the Center for Media Justice, the next step is for Facebook to proactively enforce the policy, something Facebook argues it is already doing.

“Facebook and Instagram should institute both human and technical auditing mechanisms designed to effectively identify potential violations of company policies, both by developers and their end users, and take swift action for violations.”

-The coalition, in a letter to Facebook

Google’s Area 120 startup incubator reveals Uptime video sharing app

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Google’s Area 120 startup incubator has released Uptime, a group video messaging app that lets you watch and share videos with your friend.

As of now, Uptime is only available for iPhone as an invite-only app. Once you log in with your Google account, you’re greeted with an introductory video explaining how everything works. You watch a video, and your profile picture travels along a progress bar that wraps around the screen. If there are other people watching, their icons will also travel along. You can also react to what you’re seeing on screen by typing comments or touching the screen in real time.

However, there are some limits. There’s no way to record video or to stream live: you can only share YouTube clips. The app is also best oriented for portrait-recorded videos, rather than landscape. You can watch and comment on something like a movie trailer, but if you rotate your phone 90 degrees, it won’t let you type text or add reactions.

There’s also no readily apparent way to search for specific people, and the Find Friends button only lets you invite new people to the platform.

Vertu sells for $61M to exiled Turkish businessman

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British luxury phone maker Vertu has been bought for the first time since Nokia spun it off in 2012. According to the Telegraph, the company’s been purchase for $61 million by an investment vehicle funded by Turkish exile Hakan Uzan.

“Vertu is a powerful brand with an acknowledged market niche. I look forward to working with the team and providing the investment to enable Vertu to realize its full potential.”

-Hakan Uzan, Vertu owner