Data Sheet—Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Raise your hand if your company isn’t somehow involved with developing technology for autonomous vehicles. Okay, if your hand is up, quick question: What’s wrong with you?! Don’t you know you’re nothing right now if you’re not working on a self-driving car?
(You can put your hand down now. I’m kidding.)
To review, robotic vehicles not so long ago were the preserve of the Jetsons, locomotives and some other mass-transit trains, and various competitions funded by DARPA, the federal agency whose predecessor, ARPA, developed the Internet.
Then Google, seemingly inexplicably, started fooling around with cars without steering wheels, a “moonshot” unit now known as Waymo. Into the fray jumped Tesla and its Autopilot technology; General Motors, which bought 15-minute-old Cruise Automation and partnered with Lyft; Uber, which raided Carnegie Mellon’s roboticists, bought an autonomous trucking company called Otto, and got sued by the aforementioned Waymo; and Apple, which has said nary a peep about its self-driving aspirations, though it obviously has them.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg. The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating report that now Amazon is investigating autonomous technology too with a top-secret team devoted to the topic. The Journal said “the team serves as an in-house think tank to figure out how to leverage autonomous vehicles,” presumably for the purpose of delivery of packages. The account also said Amazon recently hosted a “radical transportation salon” on the future of transportation.
At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution companies specialized. They focused on electricity generation or steel manufacturing and the like. Today, the “frenemies” of the digital age must be end to end, or intelligent conglomerates. It isn’t sufficient to make software or Web-enabled platforms, for example. The megacaps of tech build their own data centers. Uber, a ride-hailing app, feels compelled to develop its own robotic-car technology. Amazon, already a massive UPS and United States Postal Service customer, is snapping up its own planes.
It probably won’t want people to fly them either.
In case you didn’t notice, Google is now worth more than $600 billion. What’s even more mind-boggling is that the next three largest public companies (Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook) and the one that’s bigger (Apple) are all in tech. Little ‘ole Berkshire Hathaway, at $409 billion, is the biggest non-tech player.
BITS AND BYTES
A credible Apple watcher is warning about iPhone 8 shipment delays. In a research report published Monday, KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested that the tech giant was forced to custom order some of the cutting-edge components needed for the new edition expected out this fall. That means it might not ship until October or November, although new models that retain the older design should be available earlier. (Fortune)
Netflix is raising another $1 billion. Proceeds from a senior note offering outside the United States will be put toward “general corporate purposes,” including acquisitions and investments in new programming. (Fortune)
LinkedIn reaches a big user milestone. The social network for professionals now includes 500 million people in more than 200 countries—and there are more than 10 million job postings on the site. That revelation comes alongside the introduction of a new feature out this week that connects LinkedIn more tightly with the Dynamics 365 sales software application sold by its new corporate parent Microsoft. (Fortune, Reuters)
AT&T hires celebrity Mark Wahlberg to help win back customers. The telecommunications giant is touting its corporate makeover with a huge television campaign combining pitches for its wireless, DirecTV video, and home Internet services. AT&T spent $1.6 billion last year on TV, print, and digital advertising for all its brands—that topped rival Verizon’s $1.3 billion outlay and was more than rivals Sprint and T-Mobile spent combined. (Fortune)
SAP beats revenue forecasts, again. The German company is benefiting from an ongoing upgrade to the latest version of its flagship business software system called S/4 Hana. Its cloud software subscription sales rose 34%, higher than anticipated. (Bloomberg)
WATCH FOR IT
The quest to kill net neutrality begins this week. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is expected to offer more detail Wednesday on his plans to repeal rules approved by the FCC in 2015 that prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy Internet. (Reuters)
Brace yourself for Twitter’s first-quarter financials. Word is that the social media company will record its first ever revenue decline when its latest earnings report is released before the stock market opening on Wednesday. Senior executives didn’t provide an outlook during its last quarterly check-in. (Motley Fool, Yahoo Finance)
SURVEYS AND STATS
The corporate migration to Windows 10 is happening fast. New data from Gartner suggests that 85% of enterprises will have started the process of adopting Microsoft’s latest operating system before the end of 2017—that’s faster than for the previous edition. The software’s security and cloud integration features were the two biggest factors driving upgrades. (Gartner)
Why Google Books deserves better than these obituaries. As many people know, Google spent hundreds of millions of dollars to scan the collections of great libraries of Oxford, Stanford, New York City and elsewhere. The result is the most valuable repository of knowledge and culture in history: A present day Library of Alexandria spanning centuries of works in many languages, and accessible anywhere there is an Internet connection.
But despite this staggering achievement, recent accounts of Google Books read like a review of a failed tech product. If Google is to dispel the recent mutterings about the project’s decline, it should offer some assurances about how it will ensure the collection—which, recall, is nothing less than the history of human knowledge—will survive. Fortune‘s Jeff John Roberts offers insight into what might be next for the initiative.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Sheryl Sandberg’s New Book Redefines What It Means to ‘Lean In’, by Valentina Zarya
Microsoft Plans Chromebook Killer for Education Market, by Barb Darrow
Amazon Debuts Marketplace for Digital Subscriptions, by Leena Rao
TED Goes Corporate, by Laura Entis
Waymo Is Inviting Hundreds of People to Use its Self-Driving Minivans, by Kirsten Korosec
Now We Know What Yahoo Made on Its Early Snapchat Bet, by Lucinda Shen
Halt Hackers in Their Tracks With This Simple Key, by Robert Hackett & Jeff John Roberts
Tesla Will Double Its Supercharger Network This Year, by Kirsten Korosec