There it goes again. Amazon, the most disruptive retailer since Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward hit the scene is noodling again on something new. It’s called Amazon Go, a convenience-store-sized shop staffed by robots and sensors rather than humans.
As with much of what Amazon does, this is only a test. Its current Amazon Go store in Seattle is only open to employees for now. But Amazon is like a computer virus: It probes, it examines, it learns. And then it attacks. The company announced Amazon Go with a video, and Fortune’s Andrew Nusca and Robert Hackett also produced a video discussing the move. I’m with Nusca, who argues that Amazon is a master at building on top of its existing infrastructure. Just as Amazon Web Services was able to jumpstart itself by being its own best customer, Amazon’s massive distribution network is a natural partner to a chain of convenience stores.
Amazon doesn’t succeed at everything it does. (Think: Fire Phone.) Nor does it do everything quickly. It has been investigating the grocery business for years without achieving the dominance it has in online commerce. But when Amazon tries something new, it is worth paying attention.
I once sat next to Bill Gates at a dinner, and I was flabbergasted not only by his raw intelligence but also by the range of topics in his repertoire. He could go from medical science to computer security to political philosophy and back again in the span of five minutes. The reason Gates can hold forth on so many things is that he’s a voracious reader. (I always wished I could take “reading weeks,” as he did when he was CEO of Microsoft.) Take a moment and look at his recommendations of the best books he’s read this year. It is an eclectic bunch, and the list speaks to the philanthropist’s fertile mind.
Have a literate day.
BITS AND BYTES
GoDaddy just made its biggest acquisition ever. The Internet hosting and cloud services company is paying $2 billion for Host Europe Group, one of the biggest independent firms in that market with almost 1.7 million customers. The move will considerably expand its international presence, especially in the United Kingdom and Germany. (Reuters, Wall Street Journal)
Watson, is our network under attack? IBM is preparing to test a new cybersecurity defense service based on its artificial intelligence software. Several dozen organizations have signed up to try it out including Sun Life Financial, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., and Avnet. (Fortune)
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Microsoft take on terrorists. The tech giants are teaming up to create a shared database with the unique digital fingerprints—called “hashes”—of terrorism images and videos that violate their content policies. (Fortune)
Whither wearables? Apple is projecting a record fourth quarter for its smartwatch. The entire category could really use a boost: it shrank 52% in the third quarter, according to researcher International Data Corp. Apple’s third-quarter watch shipments contracted 71% to 1.1 million. Fitbit is also feeling the pain, IDC’s figures show it’s still the wearables leader (including both fitness bands and smartwatches) but its growth has stalled. (Reuters, Fortune)
Ford is raising $2.8 billion to invest in new tech. The automaker is turning to the long-term debt markets for the first time in almost four years. It wants the money to help fuel software development for autonomous vehicles, mobility services, and electric car technologies. (Wall Street Journal, Reuters)
Why big phone companies are excited for the Trump presidency. There’s a growing sense of almost euphoria in the telecommunications industry as the incoming Donald Trump administration appears likely to be considerably more friendly to mergers and acquisitions.
The change comes after eight years of tough regulatory scrutiny of telecom mergers under the Obama administration. AT&T wanted to buy T-Mobile, then Sprint tried. Both were nixed by regulators, which also prevented Comcast from grabbing Time Warner Cable. That hostility towards consolidation appears quite likely to change.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Intel Will Act as Tester and Test Subject in 5G Wireless Trial, by Aaron Pressman
Apple’s MacBook Pro With TouchBar Could Have Battery Problems, by Don Reisinger
Microsoft Debuts Another Wise-Cracking Chatbot, by Jonathan Vanian
Silicon Valley’s Hot New Car Display Is Being Brought to the Masses, by Kirsten Korosec
ONE MORE THING
This Google app could give you peace of mind in emergencies. The software, called Trusted Contacts, is similar to Facebook’s Safety Check option. It helps people alert friends and family about their safety—and broadcast their location—during natural disasters or other crises. (Fortune)