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October 29, 2021
🚀 Good morning! Let's just get this Meta stuff over with...
...sigh: Meta

*rubs face* Ok, so, by now you’ve heard Facebook announced last night it has become Meta. But there is actual news too!

  • Meta, the ancient Greek word for “beyond,” is the name of the company that runs the Facebook app, Instagram, Whatsapp, etc.
  • There’s no restructuring or executive changes or shuffling. It’s the same, bad place.
  • Mark Zuckerberg announced the shift and detailed the metaverse that Facebook Meta is now working on, with a bunch of details and insights in an hour long presentation. A lot of comparisons were made to books in sci-fi that have already proposed immersive versions and visions of the internet, like Ready Player One, which also had a VR movie with HTC.
  • “The metaverse is the next evolution of social connection. Our company’s vision is to help bring the metaverse to life, so we are changing our name to reflect our commitment to this future.”
  • Mmhmm. Also, it’s because Facebook’s brand is mud. Zuckerberg admitted in an Stratechery interview that the ongoing backlash added a sense of “urgency” to boot Facebook’s name off the wider company so at least he’s not completely tone deaf.
  • And there were memes galore! From Meesa to fun like this.

Actual news:

Other than hand-waving future things and rebranding stuff, there were a few bits you might want to know: 

  • There’ll be a VR remake of GTA: San Andreas, which is somewhat surprising given how non-PG that game is but hey, it’s 2021 (or 2022 by the time it’s out).
  • And Meta announced new Oculus hardware, including a new headset coming next year. 
  • Though Oculus, the brand Facebook acquired in 2014, is being retired as well: so, the Oculus Quest 2 will become the Meta Quest 2, and so on.
  • Also, Facebook is ditching the requirement to have a Facebook account to use Oculus/Meta. Sort of. (The Verge)
  • There’s also an interesting bit of tech in its “Codec Avatars,” amid the fluff.

Well-considered takes: 

  • Stratechery has a post that was nearly titled “House of Zuck”. 
  • Ben Thompson argues that Facebook is driven by its founder in Zuckerberg, and he’s not stepping off the gas. The thinking goes that you basically have to either believe in Zuck because he’s at the wheel and spending $10B a year on the future he sees, no matter the grumblings of cynical shareholders that just want high margins and returns. There’s also a long full interview here
  • And The Verge also has an interview: “I think that there was just a lot of confusion and awkwardness about having the company brand be also the brand of one of the social media apps,” said Zuck. (Mmhmm, maybe he is tone deaf?)
  • Expect more detailed thoughts coming out across the weekend as we digest what it all means…

✏️ It seems it’s possible to get Google’s Magic Eraser on any Android phone, implying that the tool uses cloud processing, not Google’s Tensor chip. And that means it’s not a Pixel 6 specific feature unless Google keeps it that way, artificially (Android Authority).

📸 Which phone shot it? Pixel 6 Pro, S21 Ultra, iPhone, or Pixel 5? (Answers at the very bottom!) (Android Authority).

📈 Newly independent Honor is now bigger than Xiaomi in its home market (Android Authority).

📈 Sony is actually selling more smartphones than it did this time last year (Android Authority).

📉 Also: another slow quarter for the smartphone market as sales dropped 6%, but revenue was up as companies put whatever chips they could get into higher-end, higher margin phones — just like in cars (Android Authority).

🍎 Despite huge iPhone sales, Apple misses the mark in Q4 earnings report: Supply shortages cost $6B. Note: this quarter only included a few days after the iPhone 13 launch (Ars Technica).

👉 Teenage Engineering’s new PC case is gorgeous, expensive, bendable, and sold-out (The Verge).

📦 Amazon will spend billions to offset holiday shipping slowdown (Engadget).

🐶 Why do dogs tilt their heads? New (cute) study offers (cute) clues (Science).

🚀 A once-quiet battle to replace the space station suddenly is red hot (Ars Technica).

🤔 “If brands were brutally honest, what brand would have what slogan?” Paying someone else’s parking meter, or buying liquor on Sundays in many parts of the US… (r/askreddit)

Friday Fun
jupiter red spot

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is continuing to teach us we know vanishingly little about our own solar system. The biggest storm in our part of the Universe is now deeper than expected: already we knew it had a width on the surface of 16,000 kilometers, as it’s grown and shrunk over the years, but it’s no pancake (Wired).

  • The latest out of NASA’s Juno spacecraft is that Great Red Spot now has a depth too: estimated at between 350 and 500 kilometers, or more than 310 miles, or about the length of the Grand Canyon.
  • That’s according to new research published in Nature, which upends old thinking that it was a shallow kind of storm.
  • “This is the first window we’ve had into the depths of Jupiter,” says Scott Bolton, an astrophysicist at the Southwest Research Institute, the Juno mission’s principal investigator and author of one of the two papers. “If you look at the Great Red Spot sideways, it looks like a pancake, but we expected that the pancake would be thinner.”
  • More: “Whatever the Great Red Spot is, it extends deeper than where we think water clouds should form. To me, this is the biggest surprise of the Juno mission, the most unexpected thing,” says David Stevenson, a planetary scientist at Caltech in Pasadena who was not involved in this research.
  • In any case, it’s new work from the Juno spacecraft, which “will soon be measuring the depth of the polar cyclones, which might penetrate even deeper beneath the clouds.”
  • “This data will change the way we view giant planet atmospheres forever,” Bolton says.

Have a great weekend!

Cheers, Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.

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