Mobile Digest: Google sues Uber for stealing self-driving car tech

Theft. Deception. Betrayal. The latest Uber-Google saga has all the makings of a Hollywood classic. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news

 

As the leading players in mobility descended on Barcelona, Spain, for the annual Mobile World Congress, all ears were tuned to an allegation that came roaring across the ocean from Silicon Valley -— that Uber's self-driving car project is built on a feat of extraordinary cyber crime. Google’s self-driving car company Waymo claims that one of its former autonomous gurus, Anthony Levandowski, swiped 14,000 files of proprietary data off his company-issued laptop shortly before he left Waymo to start self-driving truck startup Otto. The most critical of this data involved LIDAR circuit board designs that allow cars to create a 3D map of their surroundings. Google alleges that Levandowski downloaded the files to an external hard drive before attempting to mask his actions by installing a new operating system on his laptop. Presumably Uber had no idea about this when it purchased Otto for $680 million last year, but now it has to deal in court with what could be a crippling setback to its self-driving car ambitions. Levandowski is scheduled to give a keynote in Barcelona this week.

 

We will give a full breakdown of MWC news and happenings in our next Mobile Digest. The show runs from February 27 to March 2.

 

In the money

 

The world continues to wait for Snap’s initial public offering, which at a predicted $20-25 billion is set to be the biggest IPO since Facebook. Some investors are starting to get cold feet, however, behind revelations that the company had a net loss of $514.6 million last year. In an attempt to increase investor confidence, the company started selling its Spectacles for $129.99 online at Spectacles.com last week. The smart glasses allow users to shoot their surroundings straight into their Snap feed. Enthusiasm was tepid for these same glasses when Snap launched them at pop-up kiosks around the country last year, and Snap admits in its IPO filing that it expects “to experience production and operating costs related to Spectacles that will exceed the related revenue in the near future.” 

 

American consumers are spending more on premium apps and in-app purchases, with average spend rising year-over-year from $35 to $40 per person, according to a new study from research firm Sensor Tower. Games continue to dominate revenue generation, claiming more than 80 percent of the pie with $27 per active iPhone (up from $25 per device in 2015). Entertainment apps like Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now are on the up, however, with average spending climbing 130 percent year-over-year to $2.30 per active device.

 

In other news

 

Verizon jumped on board the 5G pilot train. The company says that come mid-2017 it will begin testing its superfast wireless service in 11 cities across America, including in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Seattle, Dallas and Denver. Verizon will be third to the party, as AT&T and T-Mobile 5G trials and demos are already underway.

 

Microsoft released an open-source simulator for drones and autonomous vehicles. Called AirSim, the software allows developers to test their products without expensive, real-world consequences. Consider the difference between a shadow and a wall. You and I know that we can cross from sunlight to shade without experiencing a physical impact. AirSim allows machines to learn the same without have to damage valuable prototypes in the process. The software is available on GitHub.

 

On the mobile enterprise front, MobileIron created a new Internet of Things division aimed at helping businesses make sense of IoT data, mitigate errors and increase return on investment. MobileIron’s software pulls this off by offering a unified and secure platform across the IoT spectrum, from sensor to app to gateway to cloud to network. This sets up a battle royale between MobileIron and BlackBerry, which is pursuing the same space with its Enterprise of Things offering.

 

Experiences, rather than simple posts, are all the rage in social media today. Hence Instagram’s move last week to allow users to post up to ten related pictures and videos in a single, swipeable carousel in their primary feed. This in an app that was originally built for singling out that one best photograph. The move is an attempt to keep pace with Snapchat Stories and Facebook Stories, among others.

 

Rumors are flying that Apple is planning to release a special phone in celebration of the iPhone’s tenth anniversary. The premium phone will be dubbed the iPhone X and will feature wireless charging, an all-glass case and a high-res OLED display, if speculation is to be believed. This would pit the iPhone X against the Samsung Galaxy S8, which will offer iris scanning and gesture recognition, for the most advanced phone on the market.

 

Speaking of smartphone innovation, Apple filed for a patent last week that could pave the way to all-screen iPhones. The patent details a cluster of LED sensors that lay beneath the screen display and can sense a finger’s presence and scan its print. This would allow Apple to eliminate a home screen button on the face of the handset. Samsung is reportedly looking into something similar, and LG is expected to roll out the first split-screen technology on the GS smartphone this week at Mobile World Congress. More to come next time.

 

The Mobile Digest is a biweekly lowdown on the world of mobile, combining Open Mobile Media analysis with information from industry press releases.

 

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to Open Mobile Media.