By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
December 12, 2017

Apple’s purchase of the magical music-identification app Shazam provokes two questions: Why and why now?

Shazam isn’t new, having sprung up in 2008 as one of the first apps to take advantage and show the power of the iPhone, introduced in 2007. (The next year a startup called UberCab similarly took advantage of the smartphone’s unique attributes to create what would become a global transportation company.) Shazam’s relationship with Apple isn’t new either. It long has been one of the App Store’s most popular apps, and its capabilities already are integrated into Apple’s Siri virtual assistant.

Part of the “why” can be found in Apple’s typically cryptic statement confirming the deal. “We are thrilled that Shazam and its talented team will be joining Apple [emphasis mine],” the company said, adding: “We have exciting plans in store.” Apple has a long history of acquiring relatively small companies as much for their people as their technology. An acquisition grew into the original iTunes software. The same is true for Apple’s in-house semiconductor design team. Many lower-profile purchases has bolstered Apple’s behind-the-scenes capabilities.

Why now? Subscription services are becoming a significant and fast-growing part of Apple’s business. Apple Music isn’t the market leader, but it is a major force. Beefing up the talent and the technical attributes of its offering would be a good reason to buy Shazam. The same goes for Apple’s imminent HomePod, an overdue and pricey product whose later generations Apple will want to stand out from the crowd.

Adam Lashinsky


Plus ça change…French authorities say many apartments on Airbnb in Paris have not complied with new rules requiring registering with the city and demanded about 1,000 be delisted. Only 11,000 apartments are registered, perhaps one-fifth the total available on Airbnb and competing sites, Ian Brossat, the mayor’s deputy in charge of housing, told Agence France-Presse, hinting at a coming crackdown. But it’s not just France–Seattle this week passed new rules limiting short-term apartment rentals, too.

Price check. China’s e-commerce giants may be taking a page out of Amazon’s strategy to get physical. After the American online outfit bought Whole Foods, now Tencent is investing in Super Species, a so-called hypermarket chain run by Yonghui Superstores, one of China’s biggest supermarket chains. That follows news last month that Alibaba invested $3 billion in a similar chain called Sun Art retail. Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang tells Adam he’s seeking to “redefine the experience” of shopping in stores.

Denounced. Some of key figures in Internet history, including World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and networking guru Vint Cerf, asked the Federal Communications Commission not to rescind its 2015 net neutrality rules. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also signed the letter. “The FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology,” the group wrote.

Can you stream me now? Verizon struck a new deal with the NFL for the rights to stream football games to mobile phones and tablets. Under the new deal, non-Verizon wireless customers can finally watch live games on their phones, as long as they use a Verizon-owned app such as Yahoo Sports, of course.

Real money. The Securities and Exchange Commission shut down an effort by restaurant review startup Munchee to raise capital via digital currency, a.k.a. an initial coin offering, saying the deal constitutes the unregistered sale of securities. But the SEC hasn’t put too much of a damper on the ICO market. Others have raised $1.38 billion in the fourth quarter using the controversial method, Bloomberg reports.

ET phone home. The sort-of-spaceship-shaped android that’s briefly hurtling through our solar system has intrigued the scientists who scan the skies in search of signals from extraterrestrials. So on Wednesday, they plan to aim the massive Green Bank Telescope at the object, which has been named Oumuamua, Hawaiian for “first messenger.” The radio telescope should be able to pick up signals was faint as those from a cellphone. “We don’t want to be sensational in any way,” billionaire Yuri Milner who funds some SETI research, tells Scientific American.


Mathematician and noted Wall Street genius Jim Simons has made billions in the markets using quantitative techniques. Now he’s trying to bring some of his data crunching brilliance to other pursuits. D.T. Max has a colorful profile in the New Yorker of the chain smoking Simons and the Flatiron Institute, the new research effort Simons is funding to help create better methods to analyze big sets of data. The underlying notion is that people who may be great scientists or researchers may lack the computer coding skills to write programs that get the most out of their sets of data. As Max explains:

The Flatiron doesn’t conduct any new experiments. Most of its fellows collaborate with universities that generate fresh data from “wet” labs—the ones with autoclaves and genetically engineered mice—and other facilities. The institute’s algorithms and computer models are meant to help its fellows uncover information hidden in data sets that have already been collected: inferring the location of new planets from the distorted space-time that surrounds them; identifying links to mutations among apparently functionless parts of chromosomes. As a result, the interior of the institute looks less like a lab than like an ordinary Flatiron-district office: casually dressed people sitting all day at desks, staring at screens, under high ceilings.


Getting in the holiday spirit and want to watch a classic flick like It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street or maybe the modern gem Elf? Don’t look to stream them on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. The top Internet video services are very light on classics and, combined, carry only six of the 25 top-rated holiday movies, Bloomberg reports. Bad Santa, anyone?

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.


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