The daily download on the business of technology.
A couple years ago, when I started working on a book about Uber, I was fairly confident it was going to be a good story. I knew it already was a revolutionary example of how a startup could embrace previously unheard of technology (smartphones and attendant app stores) and go global at a never-before-seen pace. I knew there was controversy aplenty to keep the story lively. And I knew in Travis Kalanick Uber had a central character that would hold readers’ attention and then some.
I had no idea everything I thought was true about Uber would be amplified by orders of magnitude.
Today, Fortune releases an exclusive excerpt from my book, Wild Ride: Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination, which will be released this Tuesday, May 23rd. I hope you’ll enjoy the excerpt, which takes you into the mindset of Kalanick as he’s about to turn 40, about to bail out of Uber’s costly investment in China, and about to slammed by more controversy over several months than the previous six years combined.
Reporting and writing this book has been a wild ride for me too. But the excerpt we are publishing today features a long walk I took with Kalanick. What he says about himself on this walk might surprise you.
Another surprise is what he told me about another person with whom he regularly walked the same route. I later learned that this person was Anthony Levandowski, the ex-Google engineer currently at the heart of Uber’s legal fight with Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving car project. As I mentioned the other day, a federal judge recently ordered Uber to provide Waymo a list of anyone at Uber who ever discussed a certain kind of sensor technology with Levandowski. Kalanick told me he walked for hours with Levandowski, learning the self-driving-car technology business from him. (Mike Isaac of The New York Times echoes this walking anecdote in his coverage.)
If I’m reading this correctly, the judge is saying that Waymo can depose Kalanick and call him as a witness to explain what they talked about in conversations for which only the two of them would have been present.
This is going to be a wild ride too.
Less with less. Cisco continues to have a rough go as its major markets remain in “transition.” Revenue slid 1%, but will drop 4% to 6% next quarter, the company said. After announcing 5,500 job cuts in August, Cisco said Wednesday it would have cut another 1,100.
Buried in the news. Google opened its annual I/O conference for developers with a blizzard of announcements and a strong focus on artificial intelligence. The search giant said it would allow companies to use its specially-designed AI chips, called the Tensor Processing Unit, via its cloud service. The chips speed up tasks like machine learning, image recognition, and language translation. It’s also bringing its voice-controlled digital assistant to the iPhone.
On the virtual reality front, Google said it was creating a headset that would not require an attached computer or mobile phone. Google also said it was extending its payments system so it can be used on web sites and Android mobile apps. Oh, by the way, Android now has 2 billion active users.
The known unknowns. The Federal Communications Commission meets Thursday to pull the legal footing out from under its own 2015 net neutrality rules. Chairman Ajit Pai, the former Verizon lawyer appointed by President Trump in January to head the agency, hasn’t said how he’ll enforce the rules prohibiting the blocking or slowing of online sites and services in the future.
Did we say that? The European Union fined Facebook $123 million for making misleading statements when it acquired WhatsApp about the ability to match accounts from the two different services. In 2014, Facebook said couldn’t easily link people from its social network to their accounts on the messaging platform. But it has been doing just that since last August. Facebook said it didn’t intentionally mislead.
Cracking a president. How tight is Internet security at Donald Trump’s Florida retreat, Mar-a-Lago? Not very, according to a joint investigation by ProPublica and Gizmodo. Unprotected Wi-Fi networks could have been hacked in minutes.
Long way between pit stops. Qualcomm said Thursday that it successfully tested a way to recharge an electric car wirelessly while the vehicle was in motion. Pads embedded in a road transferred 20 kilowatts of energy to a car driving at highway speeds.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
We are glued to our phones throughout the day, but for some people using the device has possibly become a dangerous addiction. The medical community is split over whether obsessive Internet usage, which also encompasses excessively using apps and other on-phone activities, should be formally recognized as a psychological disorder.
Dr. Anna Lembke, a Stanford University professor in addiction medicine, thinks eventually there will be a formal diagnosis for the truly phone addicted.
“Addiction begins with intermittent to recreational use, then progresses into daily use, and then progresses into consequential use, which in some cases will progress to life-threatening use,” Lembke says. “That’s followed by a pattern of consequences like insomnia, dysfunctional relationships and absent days at work or school. That’s the natural narrative arc of any addiction, and the same is true with an Internet addiction.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Google’s Home Speaker Just Made Phone Calls a Bit Easier by Jonathan Vanian
Why Apple Is One of the 5 Best Dividend Stocks to Buy Now by Jen Wieczner
Almost 40,000 AT&T Workers Threaten Weekend Strike by Aaron Pressman
Here’s Who Steve Jobs Wanted to Be the ‘Voice of Apple by Don Reisinger
Google Is Not Going the Way of Kleenex, Cellophane, or Aspirin by Jeff John Roberts
BEFORE YOU GO
So many tomatoes, so little tomato flavor. But Professor of Professor of horticultural sciences Harry Klee and his team of researchers based at the University of Florida have a plan. They’re going to create new strains of tomato that revert the fruit back decades to when it had much more pizzazz. However, the team won’t be dialing up 21st-century genetic modification techniques to create a super tomato in the lab. Instead, they’re relying on the standard process for cross-breeding plants used by farmers since the beginning of agriculture.
“It’s a big enough task just to bring back the modern tomato to where it was fifty years ago,” Klee says. “Do we need to go beyond what the heirloom could deliver?”