By adaptive - February 8th, 2016

Details emerge of a secret Apple virtual reality team, as the Windows Phone dies a slow death and Yahoo! tries to revive itself (again). Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news

Remember that scene in the movie Titanic when the doomed ship rears into the sky and then just hangs there, waiting to plunge into the icy depths of the Atlantic? Yahoo! can relate. The company is so precariously situated that its attempts to sell itself off, at virtually any cost, have failed. The latest news: CEO Marissa Mayer will slash 1,700 more jobs, shutter Games and Smart TV, sell off many of its patents, shut down all of its international offices and try to regroup around three core pillars of search, mail and Tumblr, with an emphasis on mobile across all three. Mayer has been hailed as the “high priestess of simplicity” since her Google days, so maybe this last ditch effort will finally get Yahoo! back on track. Perhaps it will even deliver something we’re excited about, dare we say surprised by, on our mobile devices. If not, look out below.

In the money

Alphabet, parent company of Google, passed Apple to become the most valuable publicly traded business in the world. Alphabet now sits at $558 billion, as compared to Apple’s $535 billion. The latter is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s worth pointing out the comparative trajectories of the two companies, with Apple (a company built around mobile hardware) on a pretty sharp stock skid during the past six months as compared to Alphabet (a company built around software) on a steady rise.

Microsoft shelled out $250 million for keyboard app-maker SwiftKey, which aims to make people more productive on their mobile devices by saving time typing. Microsoft plans to integrate the predictive technology into Word and also may push to build its voice assistant, Cortana, into the SwiftKey app — a nice way to boost Cortana use.

Love that wardrobe on Pinterest? Want that jacket on Instagram? Curalate, which uses image recognition technology that allows companies to market their brands right alongside the images people share in social, netted $27.5 million in new funding. The startup plans to use the funding for new hires and product development.

In other news

Anyone who thinks virtual and augmented reality are a flash in the pan has their head in the sand at this point. The latest proof:

- The Wall Street Journal revealed that Apple has a secret super team working 24/7 on virtual and augmented reality concepts. In light of its recent stock slide, the company is eager to get something out into the market to compete with devices like the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift. Apple also just acquired Flyby Media, a spatial mapping company, to help with VR endeavors.

- AR firm Magic Leap just raked in nearly a billion in funding to fuel its next-gen AR devices. Magic Leap operates in high stealth mode, but we do know that the $793.5 million haul will go toward turning its digital lightfield technology into a consumer grade AR device. The Series C funding round was led by Alibaba.

- Rumors are already starting to swirl about all the VR concepts set to debut at Mobile World Congress later this month. One example: A Gear 360 VR camera from Samsung with a spherical camera that shoots 360-degree images that can be uploaded, for instance, onto a Facebook feed.

The next frontier for mobile payment platforms: ATMs. Tech Crunch broke the news that both Bank of America and Wells Fargo are integrating Apple Pay into their ATMs. users will tap their smartphones on a near field communication port, then simply enter a passcode and take out their cash. A motivating factor is fraud prevention, as apple pay is tougher to crack than a traditional credit card/pin combo.

Google wants smartphones to be smarter. Like so smart they can pick out faces from a crowd or intuit all sorts of preferences from your daily habits and then communicate those preferences to smart devices in your home, car or office. “Machine-learning capabilities” is the code word for this higher intelligence, and Google has partnered up with Movidius to develop it on the skinny (rather than for the super computers like IBM’s Watson where it resides today).

Q2 sales on the Windows Phone slipped to 4.5 million devices, down 6 million from Q2 in 2015. Since a peak marketshare of 12% in 2007, the phone has yielded several percentage points every year, and now finds itself cratered in the abysmal 2%. This while Microsoft continues to posture as if Lumia is ready to storm back into contention. #WindowsPhoneIsDead #DeadAsADoorNail.

Finally, don’t you just love selling guns on social media? Man, what a rush to buy unlicensed firearms on Facebook. It’s so easy, you just go on, type in … errr, check that, Facebook just changed its gun policies on Facebook and Instagram. Namely, you can’t sell them. Private sellers can’t even advertise them. Licensed retailers can, but no sales can be processed through the site. America’s rampant gun abuse is a complex web of challenges that no one action or policy can correct. It’s equally true that one smart change begets another until a whole paradigm has been turned on its head. Good start Facebook.

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.

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