Data Sheet—Monday, December 12, 2016
Donald Trump has reportedly sent out invitations to a high-tech summit to be held on Wednesday, and the list of attendees apparently includes Apple CEO Tim Cook, Alphabet CEO Larry Page, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Will any of the guests stand up to Trump or will they defer to him because of the enormous power he will soon have?
There are some conspicuous holes in the invitation list, including billionaire Mark Cuban and Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, both of whom were supporters of Hillary Clinton, and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, who compared Trump to Hitler.
Even without these prominent critics, however, the atmosphere in the Trump Tower boardroom is likely to be tense. Most of Silicon Valley supported Hillary Clinton, with the exception of PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel, who is said to be one of the architects of the meeting.
Will Tim Cook confront Trump about his criticism of Apple’s use of offshore labor? Will Larry Page bring up the President-elect’s dislike of net neutrality, and try convince him he is wrong? Will Jeff Bezos—as owner of The Washington Post—challenge Trump’s hostile attitude towards the media and the impact that could have on freedom of the press?
None of this seems terribly likely. Instead, Oracle CEO Safra Catz’s attitude will probably be the dominant approach: “I plan to tell the President-elect that we are with him and will help in any way we can,” Catz said. When there’s a new sheriff in town, probably better to start out on his good side. Silicon Valley is nothing if not pragmatic.
BITS AND BYTES
Latest round in ugly patent skirmish goes to Cisco. A federal trade judge in Washington has ruled that upstart Arista infringed on two of the networking giant’s patents, setting the stage for an import ban on Arista’s Ethernet switches. The decision must be reviewed by the full commission, a development that should happen within the next few months. (Reuters)
In-flight wireless is taking flight in more places. But not if you’re flying over India. The country still prohibits Internet access on planes for security reasons. (Wall Street Journal)
One startup’s quest for safer smartphone batteries. Ionic Materials in Massachusetts is developing “solid” lithium polymer batteries that stand less change of exploding or catching fire than the current generation of technology. It hopes to begin manufacturing its products within two years. Ionic’s rivals include Seeo and Sakti, which were both acquired by big industrial companies over the last year. (New York Times)
Bill Gates fronts $1 billion clean energy fund. The money, part of the Microsoft’s Breakthrough Energy Coalition launched in December 2015, will go toward technologies for electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial systems, agriculture, and energy system efficiency. Gates’ partners include venture capitalist John Doerr and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma. (Fortune)
Google’s new smartphone is doing well in early sales. Even though the Google Pixel didn’t ship officially until Oct. 20, it competed admirably last quarter with models from Microsoft and Huawei. Forecasts predict Google could sell between 3 million and 5 million units of the device during the fourth quarter. (Fortune)
This software firm wants to replace your company bulletin board. Dynamic Signal’s application for employee communications is already used by the likes of General, Procter & Gamble, IBM, Capital One, Salesforce, Deloitte, and Humana. It just raised another $25 million, led by Microsoft’s venture arm. (TechCrunch)
SURVEYS AND STUDIES
Still struggling to embrace big data? You’re not alone. Most traditional companies are still early in their journey to start using the information they collect more methodically, suggests a new McKinsey Global Institute report on the “age of analytics.” For example, the retail sector has probably captured just 30-40% of the value potential of the metrics it gathers, the consulting firm figures. As the case for moving more quickly gets stronger, a separate report from Accenture Analytics offers some advice for strategists. Rule No. 1, address the cultural changes required first. (McKinsey, Accenture)
Artificial intelligence can’t replace these human skills. Smart assistants and other apps could help free up at least half of the time managers spend on organizational and administrative tasks. That would leave them more open to focus on strategy, social interactions, and improving team collaboration. (Harvard Business Review)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Microsoft Is Backing This Voice-Driven Sales Assistant, by Heather Clancy
Here’s Why Facebook’s Repeated Measurement Mistakes Matter, by Mathew Ingram
Magic Leap CEO Responds to Hype-Bursting Report, by Robert Hackett
Is It Time for America to Hack Back? by Jeff John Roberts
It Looks Like Apple’s AirPods Won’t Be Ready for the Holiday Season, by Jonathan Vanian
Verizon Extends Its Lead in Network Quality Tests, by Aaron Pressman
ONE MORE THING
Here’s the letter the late John Glenn wrote to Jeff Bezos. Days before he died, the first American to orbit the earth thanked the Amazon CEO—who also founded space company Blue Origin—for naming one of its next rockets, called the New Glenn, after him. (The Washington Post)