The daily download on the business of technology.
If you read one long, demanding article about the technology industry this week, make it Farhad Manjoo’s cover story this past weekend in The New York Times Magazine about Facebook. Called “Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug?” it delves deeply into Mark Zuckerberg’s non-linear journey toward understanding what his life’s work has wrought. Yes, Facebook has made it easier for us to communicate with each other. But Facebook also has made it easier for liars, hucksters, and other reprobates to trick us into consuming all manner of foul stuff—particularly fake news—that has a pernicious impact on society.
Through in-depth interviews with Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and all-powerful CEO, and others, Manjoo demonstrates how difficult a task Facebook faces in cleaning up its act. Making value judgements about “content” on its platform goes against Facebook’s core DNA. Trying to fix the problem is a Pandora’s box of epic proportions. Hiring humans to vet news, for example, inevitably will lead to charges of political partisanship—exactly what Facebook was trying to avoid.
This is all so important, of course, because Facebook has set itself up as the most powerful distributor and beneficiary of news, fake and otherwise. (Facebook prefers to the expression “false news,” by the way, some other guy having hijacked the other term for his own uses.) Eliminating the destructive material on its sites would be one thing. Acknowledging that at the same time Facebook is sucking dry the lifeblood of professional journalism would be another thing altogether.
While I’m praising The New York Times Magazine, I also loved this thoughtful piece about a TV remake of the beloved Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables. The only tech/disruption angle here is that Netflix is producing the series. The feature article is a good read.
I am excited to tell you about a new Fortune conference, the CEO Initiative, we will launch Sept. 25th in New York City with our colleagues at TIME. The invitation-only event, as well as extensive coverage pegged off Fortune’s annual “Change the World” list, will focus on how business can be a force for good. This isn’t about corporate philanthropy, per se, but rather about what it means for purpose-driven organizations to have a positive impact while pursuing profits. You can read more about the CEO Initiative here. Expect to hear much more in coming months.
You will notice below a new name attached to Data Sheet. As of today, Aaron Pressman, a Boston-based senior writer for Fortune, will be curating your must-read tech news for the day. I want to welcome him, as well as thank Heather Clancy for her able and enthusiastic stewardship of this daily effort.
BITS AND BYTES
Here comes Bixby. The Samsung Galaxy S8 arrived in customers’ hands 10 days ago with its cool, edge-to-edge Infinity display, much-tested battery, and a modem chip capable of reaching gigabit speeds. But the phone’s touted digital assistant, Bixby, couldn’t take voice commands, missing a key feature of its competitors Siri and the Google Assistant. Now Bixby is getting its listening skills. On Monday, Samsung turned on the feature for South Korean customers, with U.S. customers likely waiting another few weeks. (ZDNet)
Double pay. Google has had great success with its Android operating system, fueling its mobile advertising push alongside the still thriving search ad business. Sundar Pichai, completing his first year as CEO of Google, was rewarded for the continued success with his compensation rising to $200 million last year, almost double the $101 million he earned in 2015. (CNBC)
Not so secure money transfers. The global banking industry’s private communications network used to move trillions of dollars needs some serious security upgrades. Hackers have repeatedly cracked the the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication’s network, known as Swift, over the past year. (Wall Street Journal)
Speaking of cash. Apple’s massive cash pile is set to exceed $250 billion when the iPhone maker reports its results for the first quarter of the year (its fiscal second quarter) on May 2. The money could be used for a big media acquisition or continue to fuel massive stock buybacks. Expect pressure to build for a big acquisition if Congress and President Trump adopt a tax cut to repatriate the 90% of Apple’s cash that’s accumulated offshore at a low rate of 15% or less. (Wall Street Journal)
Space Station Goggles. A Finnish research organization says it has a new way to put Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality headset to use on the International Space Station. If it works as advertised, the AR system will let astronauts “see” telemetry and other data that would otherwise be invisible to them. (Fortune)
Will tech play ball? President Trump has already met with more than 300 CEOs in the White House. In June, he’s inviting about 20 more. The tech-focused group will give counsel to Jared Kushner’s White House Office of American Innovation. The idea is to bring more corporate strategies to fix government-sized problems. (Axios)
Small and newsy video coming soon. Twitter is partnering with Bloomberg Media for a 24-hour streaming television news service on the social networking platform. The yet-to-be-named channel is expected to launch this fall. (Fortune)
Tesla has the early lead in the race to transform the car industry, but will it hold up? Shares of Elon Musk’s automaker are at record levels, making the company worth more than its Motor City competitors—at least in the stock market. (Taking in account debt, as every business professor would advise, Ford and GM are still worth far more.) Tesla is on track to deliver 100,000 electric cars this year, far more than anyone else.
But it’s not enough to convince Tien Tzuo, one of the original employees at Salesforce.com and the CEO and founder of Zuora.
“Tesla will continue to impress and innovate,” Tzuo writes. “But Detroit has the institutional structure to start competing on technology, design, and, perhaps most importantly, price very soon.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Turkey Blocks All Versions of Wikipedia by David Z. Morris
3 Reasons Google Is Crushing It by Jeff John Roberts
Bitcoin Hits New All-Time High by David Z. Morris
Taboola and Outbrain Said to be Discussing a Merger by Mathew Ingram
Cloudera’s IPO Gets a Warm Wall Street Welcome by Jonathan Vanian
ONE MORE THING
Here’s what happens when a drone falls on your head. You don’t need to know how gravity works to understand that being hit in the head by a falling drone will hurt. But it turns out that drone crashes aren’t as dangerous to humans as being hit by in the head by steel shrapnel or a wood block. (Fortune)