Data Sheet—Tuesday, February 7, 2017
With the possible exception of Intel’s Super Bowl drones and Lady Gaga, there’s only one topic anyone in Silicon Valley is talking about this week. That is President Trump’s hastily executed travel ban on citizens from seven mostly Muslim countries, decreed in an executive order entitled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”
I learned the order’s formal name from reading an amicus brief filed on behalf of nearly 100 technology (and a few non-tech) companies in support of the State of Washington’s so-far successful effort to stop the travel ban. It’s a fascinating document that quotes John F. Kennedy and honors Lyndon Johnson, presidents who spoke and acted, respectively, in favor of immigrants.
The tech companies make three distinct arguments for overturning the President’s order. One is that it is bad policy. The second is that it hurts the companies, and others, economically. The third, and undoubtedly most important argument, is that the order is unlawful, largely because of its discriminatory nature.
This strikes me as the most American of arguments, an example of why the U.S. is as great as it is—and has been for nearly 250 years. It mixes common sense that may or may not be germane to a legal brief: We think this policy sucks; selfishness: Your order is hurting commerce, and we all know what the business of America is; and while you have the right (and responsibility) to defend our shores, you can’t violate other American laws (and, implicitly, values) in the process. (BTW, you can listen to a livestream of a hearing on the case later today.)
Switching gears only slightly, I highly recommend a recent article in The New York Times that addresses the debate about H1-B visas, which President Trump has promised, in another executive order, to review. The Times makes an important contrary point that H1-Bs, despite the tech-firm orthodoxy that they are necessary and good, have been used to discriminate against American workers. That President Trump might be on the right side of this immigration policy sideshow hasn’t escaped the attention of the news organization he and his political adviser Stephen Bannon love to hate.
BITS AND BYTES
There’s more drama in the Fitbit vs. Jawbone legal battle. A new court filing by Jawbone suggests that its rival fitness wearables company is under criminal investigation over whether or not it stole trade secrets. Jawbone asserts that a team of its former employees brought along thousands of confidential documents when they joined Fitbit’s payroll in 2015. (Fortune, Bloomberg)
BMW, Lowe’s invest in 3D metal-printing startup. They’re part of a $45 million round for two-year-old Desktop Metal that was led by Google’s parent Alphabet. In the not-so-distant future, the automaker might use this technology for “printing” car parts, while the retailer could use it for house-branded products. (Fortune)
British carrier BT is standing up for Google. The communications giant supported Google’s strategy in a letter to European antitrust regulators. The EU believes that the tech giant’s licensing policies for the Android mobile operating system are anti-competitive, but BT begs to differ. (Reuters)
Honda and Hitachi are teaming on an EV venture. The joint venture, which is getting about $45 million in backing to start up in July, will develop and make motors for electric vehicles plug-in hybrids. (Reuters)
Dubai will use IBM’s blockchain technology in its customs operation. The country is one of the world’s biggest trading hubs, supporting more than $176 billion in non-oil goods in the first half of 2016. It will use the digital ledger system to process transactions and track goods being imported and exported. (Reuters)
Human resource tech startup Zenefits names new CEO. Jay Fulcher previously led video-streaming company Ooyala and business software firm Agile Software. Fulcher takes over from David Sacks, who stepped in about a year ago to stabilize the company amid allegations that it had skirted insurance licensing requirements in multiple states. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
Denmark appoints a ‘Silicon Valley ambassador.’ This is not strictly a symbolic position. Apparently, dealing with the U.S. tech industry is just as complicated, and vitally important, as negotiating with other foreign governments. (Fortune)
Here’s some insight into what the CEOs of IBM and HPE took home last year. Ginni Rometty got her biggest bonus yet, $4.95 million, after the company’s shares rose 21%. Meg Whitman’s total package was $35.6 million. (Bloomberg, Bloomberg)
15 ways geolocation is totally changing marketing. As brands discover the power of GPS-fueled augmented reality (think Pokémon Go), they’re finding new ways to reach customers. For them, it’s meaningful not only to know not only where a consumer is, but also where that consumer’s attention is, and technology is making that possible.
“Every advertiser has an understanding of where consumers are located through their devices translated as specific GPS coordinates,” says Jim Kovach, vice president of business development at CrowdOptic, an augmented reality technology firm that has worked with L’Oreal, Sony and IMG. From AR events to “focal clustering” technology that reveals where people are looking, here are 15 trends Kovach is watching closely.
WATCH FOR IT
Waiting for hints about SoftBank’s massive tech fund. The Japanese conglomerate is set to drop its third-quarter results on Wednesday after the local stock market close. The highlights will include results from mobile chipmaker ARM and carrier Sprint, but investors are also hoping for more information about that $100 billion Vision Fund it announced last year. (Wall Street Journal)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
How Powerful AI Technology Can Lead to Unforeseen Disasters, by Jonathan Vanian
Networking Startup SnapRoute Scores Big-Name Backers, by Barb Darrow
Amazon Delivery Drone Gets Cameo, by Robert Hackett
T-Mobile, Sprint Attack Verizon in Super Bowl Ad Battle, by Aaron Pressman
Here’s How Daily Commuters Can Save More Time Using Google Maps, by Kirsten Korosec
ONE MORE THING
Vizio must pay up for spying on viewers. The popular TV maker has agreed to a $2.2 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations that it secretly collected information about owners’ viewing habits without their permission. (Fortune)