There was a time when the one thing you could be certain of in the technology industry was that Microsoft wouldn’t work with so-called open-source software. Linux was a four-letter word out of the mouth of ex-CEO Steve Ballmer, whom I’m interviewing tonight in San Francisco.
No longer. The company said the other day its successful SQL Server database product will run on Linux. (Here’s some entertaining insight into the mind of Linux inventor Linus Torvalds.) This is a big break for Microsoft, and it’s but one example of the new direction CEO Satya Nadella has led the company. By way of background, I recommend Quentin Hardy’s accessible explanation in The New York Times, with the following snappy lead: “For years, Microsoft built walls between its products and the rest of the industry. Now it is tearing them down.”
Microsoft’s opening extends beyond wonky business software. It proudly proclaims to be an important publisher of apps on Apple’s mobile-software platform, iOS.
In a sadder sign of the times, once hackers used to leave Apple products alone, presumably because they had lower market share—or maybe just because the evildoers liked to pick on Microsoft instead. Again, no longer. Palo Alto Networks, a security software firm, reported that hackers are after Apple now. The hackers are so good and their requests are so relatively small—about $400 in the cryptocurrency bitcoin—that The Wall Street Journal reports the FBI is advising victims simply to pay up.
In a cover profile of Nike CEO Mark Parker in November I wrote about his company’s global success, including its multifaceted embrace of technology. An undercurrent of the Nike story, however, is that like Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and American Express it fundamentally is a marketing company. Marketing anything gets tough when the people you’re doing business with hit the skids. As such, it has been a tough week for Nike. In Kenya, it is under attack for a questionable payment it made to a national athletic association that has subsequently gone missing. Things got worse when Maria Sharapova, the sports apparel company’s endorser and business partner, announced she’d failed a doping test.
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BITS AND BYTES
Machine: 1, Man: 0. Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo program came out the victor in its first contest against South Korean Go champion Lee Se-dol, master of the ancient Chinese board game. The pair have four matches left, each serving as a test of the company’s progress in artificial intelligence research. The tournament recalls a famous duel between IBM’s Deep Blue computer and chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov in 1997. (BBC News)
Jeff Bezos races to space. The Amazon CEO and founder showed off a manufacturing facility for his spaceflight venture, Blue Origin, for the first time Tuesday. He told reporters that the company is planning to start manned test flights for its reusable New Shepard rockets next year and passenger flights in 2018. (Fortune)
Amazon explores virtual reality? According to a job posting on the careers website GlassDoor, Amazon Video is looking to hire a senior software development manager “to lead [its] Virtual Reality team.” The online retailer is also debuting its first live show, a daily fashion and beauty program called “Style Code Live.” (ZDNet, Variety)
Intel to buy panoramic startup. The chipmaker said it is acquiring Replay Technologies, an Israeli tech company that specializes in producing panoramic video, especially for sports broadcasters. The two companies previously collaborated on a project involving the recent NBA All-Star Game. (Recode)
Could the FBI crack that terrorist’s iPhone without Apple? The American Civil Liberties Union says yes. Cybersecurity expert Alan Woodward told Fortune, however, that he is skeptical about whether the ACLU’s proposed method would meet success. Side note: A recent national poll shows that the American public is roughly split between siding with Apple versus the FBI. (Fortune, Fortune)
Asian Netflix rival raises cash. Southeast Asian video streaming service iFlix raised $45 million in funding from U.K.-based broadcaster Sky. The British company is interested in collaborating to get a foothold in emerging markets such as Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. (TechCrunch)
Canon may buy Toshiba’s medical unit. The camera company is entering exclusive talks with the fellow Japanese conglomerate over a potential sale of its medical devices division. Terms of the deal were not disclosed; however, sources familiar with the arrangement told The Wall Street Journal that the unit could yield $6.2 billion. (Wall Street Journal)
Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram takes you inside Palantir, one of Silicon Valley’s highest valued yet mysterious startups.
When you live and work in Silicon Valley, you grow accustomed to a kind of semantic saturation from overused buzzwords. Terms such as “disruptive,” “innovative,” and “mission driven” come to mind—all favorites among Valley startups, whether they’re building operating systems for robotic arms or phone-based bowling games.
So it captures your attention when the CEO of one of the most buzzed-about of those startups sidesteps that kind of language and instead explains his company’s decision-making process as “80% Piaget and 20% Hobbes.”
The CEO is Alex Karp of Palantir Technologies, the Palo Alto–based data analytics company that may or may not have helped track down Osama bin Laden. Karp holds a Ph.D. in social theory, which explains why that Piaget-Hobbes formula (more on that in a moment) figures in his view of how to manage and give purpose to a business. And like the formula, Palantir’s version of the tech industry’s “change the world” ethos becomes more distinctive, and more of a departure from the Silicon Valley norm, as you dig into it more deeply. Read the rest on Fortune.com.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
In the Cloud, Google Jockeys for Position by Barb Darrow
Cisco Is Spending Money Like There’s No Tomorrow by Jonathan Vanian
This Robot Aims to Improve Your Hotel Stay by Stacey Higginbotham
Why Big Retailers Are Going Solar by Katie Fehrenbacher
The Surprising Reasons Why Most Girls Don’t Code by Teresa White
The Problem With Silicon Valley? Unbridled Power by Michal Lev-Ram
Goldman Sachs Buys Snapchat Ads to Celebrate International Women’s Day by Kia Kokalitcheva
What to Expect From Square’s Earnings by Leena Rao
ONE MORE THING
Google’s Go battle isn’t the only man vs. machine event recently to take place. In this video clip a Jet Ski operator launches off a wave to clobber a drone in midair. (Verge)