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Today brings news that ticks three of our favorite boxes at Data Sheet: Futurism (the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed), clicks to bricks (online retailers opening physical stores), and the growth of Chinese tech giants (via a unit of Baidu in this case). Aaron in for Adam on this four-day U.S. work week, thinking about the future of movies.
The actual news event is of the starting small variety. Baidu’s iQIYI, a video streaming service sometimes dubbed the Netflix of China, opened a tiny movie theater in the city of Zhongshang in the southern province of Guangdong. Adding a few dozen seats to the theater capacity of the city of about 3 million people sounds like a drop in the bucket.
But the new theater, called Yuke, is actually a series of mini-theaters, each with two to 10 seats, that can be rented by the hour to show any content available from iQIYI’s library. With cushy chairs, Dolby audio, and a screen much larger than a home TV, the on demand Yuke theaters represent a new hybrid way to consume streaming video. iQIYI, which went public in the United States a few months ago, says it plans to bring the Yuke concept to all of China’s major cities.
There have been rumors that Netflix was pondering a more traditional theater play, as well. The Los Angeles Times reported last month that Netflix considered buying the Landmark Theatres chain, but ultimately rejected the idea as too costly. With malls facing increasing vacancies, maybe something more like iQIYI’s on-demand mini-theaters would be a smarter move for Netflix.
Big time funding, 20th century style. Speaking of Chinese tech giants, Alibaba’s payments unit, Ant Financial, raised $10 billion in a private capital deal valuing the company at $150 billion, two and half times its value in a 2016 fundraising.
Big time funding, 21st century style. Digital currency startup block.one plans to complete a year-long initial coin offering this week after raising proceeds of $4 billion, making it the largest ICO ever. The company is building a platform for hosting web apps called EOS and has pledged to invest at least $1 billion in EOS developers.
Chips and dip. Apple is expected finally to allow outside developers to gain wider access to the wireless capabilities of the near-field communication chip in every iPhone. Apple has previously mostly limited use of the NFC chip to its own apps, including Apple Pay. But at WWDC next month, Apple will expand the “Core NFC” capability available to developers, tech news site The Information reported. That could allow iPhone owners to use their phones directly to unlock doors and pay transit fares, for example.
Chips and splits. Top Republican lawmakers have split with President Trump over barring Chinese telecom equipment makers like ZTE from operating in the United States. After ZTE was banned for violating sanctions against Iran, Trump said he wanted to negotiate a deal with China to spare the company, which is a significant customer of U.S. vendors like Qualcomm. On Sunday, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said the anti-ZTE proposals had enough votes to withstand a presidential veto. In possibly related news, Chinese regulators are said to be on the verge of approving Qualcomm’s $44 billion purchase of NXP Semiconductors after a lengthy delay.
Things that make you go hmm. Billionaire space fan Elon Musk continued his media criticism over the weekend, initially tweeting praise of an article that accused the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times of “slanted” coverage of the Tesla CEO. Turned out the web site that posted the article was linked to a sex-trafficking cult, and Musk deleted his tweet. As online discussions continued, however, Musk defended the article. “Sadly, it had better critical analysis than most non-cult media,” he tweeted.
Is it really this simple? The FBI asked all consumers and small businesses to take the first step in the IT fix-it manual by restarting their routers. Turning off and back on the data switching devices should help fend off a massive malware attack from Russia known as VPN Filter, the FBI said.
Not acceptable. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is reviewing whether Intel violated age discrimination laws in a massive layoff almost three years ago, the Wall Street Journal reports. Factors such as age, race, and other forbidden criteria “were not part of the process when we made those decisions,” Intel said.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
As we weigh social media’s impact on society, here’s one for the positive side of the ledger. At BuzzFeed, Gray Chapman is barking about the use of Facebook, Instagram, and other sites by animal shelters to help place abandoned dogs. The approach is helping save the lives of many animals that would otherwise be put down. A nonprofit called LifeLine that runs shelters in Atlanta has hired two full-time, on-site social media coordinators, she reports.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Why Ashton Kutcher Donated $4 Million in Cryptocurrency to Charity By Polina Marinova
Atari Co-Founder Ted Dabney Dies at Age 81 By Lisa Marie Segarra
Google Home Sales Outpace Amazon’s Echo for the First Time By Lisa Marie Segarra
Finance App Albert Raises $5 Million to Help You Solve Your Money Problems By Polina Marinova
BEFORE YOU GO
Another beloved social science experiment has been called into question by additional research. Remember the test about how long kids could wait and not eat one marshmallow in order to receive two marshmallows later? Turns out the links to future successful behaviors as adolescents probably aren’t significant. May as well eat that one marshmallow now, I guess.