DMA TECH WATCH: Alphabet Rules, Driving Fools and ‘Force’ Keeps Earning

By Phill Powell

Welcome to DMA Tech Watch, where we review the biggest news events and tech trends now on the radar. Here’s what we’re watching as of February 1, 2016:

ALPHABET: THE NEW FIRST WORD IN MEGA-COMPANIES

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Alphabet hasn’t even existed that long. No matter – today it rules.

With a total worth that’s been valued at $568 billion, there’s a new biggest company in the world. Leaping over Apple’s worth of $535 billion is Alphabet, the new super-company created by Google (and which now controls Google).

Apple has owned the top slot for nearly four years, but Alphabet’s value has increased dramatically in a short period of time. The mega-companies are, of course, heated rivals with their own operating systems to promote.

Somehow, we sense this particular title may get handed back and forth…

‘Force’ About to Clear Major Box Office Hurdle

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The Force is still strong at the box office…

Will it end up with the biggest ticket sales in history? Probably not, but that isn’t stopping Star Wars: The Force Awakens from racking up impressive receipts everywhere the film plays.

By the end of this week, industry experts expect the film to have cleared more than $2 billion, and who knows how long it could keep earning?

Industry experts are now saying that Disney’s $4 billion purchase of LucasArts may prove to be one of the savvier acquisitions of all time. At least five more “Star Wars” films are currently scheduled for production. Just imagine how much combined money they’ll all earn!

TABLET SALES START TO FALL

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People still love their tablet computers, but trend watchers say they’re on their way out.

The numbers don’t lie, and it’s tough to read them as anything positive for the longevity of tablets. As more and more users adapt to using smartphones, it appears that some of the steam that powers the tablet market is vanishing.

According to two separate analytics firms who are studying the situation, the tablet market declined by somewhere between 8 and 10 percent during 2015, as compared to 2014, the previous year.

Both number-crunching outfits (Strategy Analytics and IDC) came to the same basic conclusion about which manufacturer leads the pack when it comes to tablet sales: Apple, which launched its iPad Pro tablet recently.

R.I.P. MR. AI

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Minsky consulted on 2001 – especially on the AI behind the HAL 9000 computer.

The tech world mourns the recent passing of artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky. He was a brilliant cognitive scientist who co-founded the AI laboratory at MIT, and authored key texts that remain influential to this day. A guiding light of this science, and an inspiration to those who want to study programming or other realms of computer science.

Minsky stayed a member of the MIT faculty for 58 years. He was also an advisor to director Stanley Kubrick during the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey. (A character named “Kaminsky” was named after Minsky.)

When selected to be a Fellow of the Computer History Museum, Minsky’s citation honored him, “for co-founding the field of artificial intelligence, creating early neural networks and robots, and developing theories of human and machine cognition.”

Biker Uses Tech Tools to Make Cross-Country Run

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In 1971’s Vanishing Point, Kowalkski (Barry Newman) drives all night to deliver a rubber-burning ’70 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum from Denver to Frisco. Carl Reese must have loved that movie…

Carl Reese is his name and driving fast is his game. Reese has made record-breaking coast-to-coast runs in a car previously but his recent feat is really mind-boggling: He rode coast to coast – the 2,829 miles from L.A. to NYC – on a BMW K 1600 GTL motorcycle…in under 39 hours.

He drove straight through for nearly two days, aided by an army of spotters and helpers who assisted with the occasional tire change and warnings of speed traps. Helping make this feat possible: the modern GPS and tracking software that helped him find the road less traveled, over and over again.

Reese’s median speed was a reasonable 73 mph, but out on the straightaways he sometimes zipped along at a speedy 110 mph. (At least he wasn’t going flat-out; the K 1600 GTL tops out near 180 mph.) Now he’s known around the world – and no doubt to an entire network of countless traffic enforcement cops, who’d like to catch that guy in their speed zone…just once.

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