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Netflix reported first-quarter financial results Tuesday afternoon. The company now has nearly 150 million global subscribers. (Reminder: Disney forecasts 60 million to 90 million subscribers for its new Disney+ streaming service in five years.) Netflix is an innovator and a juggernaut, bedeviling the competition at every turn.
Netflix also is a rule breaker. It asks an outsider to “interview” its executives on video rather than conduct an earnings call. I’m not sure Tuesday’s episode of the Netflix investor-relations show worked. UBS analyst Eric Sheridan mostly lobbed softballs that let Netflix executives repeat information they had already disclosed in a generally informative shareholder letter.
Coverage elsewhere will focus on Netflix’s slowing U.S. subscriber growth, the money it is spending on programming, and whether it can keep its debt financing engine running. I was intrigued that the company devoted an entire section of its letter to “competition”—and had nice things to say about its rivals, particularly Disney and Apple. “Both companies are world class consumer brands and we’re excited to compete,” Netflix wrote blandly. “The clear beneficiaries will be content creators and consumers who will reap the rewards of many companies vying to provide a great video experience for audiences.”
Then Netflix said something surprising, if self-serving. It thinks that because “there is vast demand for watching great TV and movies” and that “Netflix satisfies a small portion of that demand” all of the services, including Netflix, will have great growth opportunities. In fact, Netflix argues that the pie will get bigger as viewers move from “linear” TV to streaming, just as cable networks once grew consistently as consumers shifted away from rabbit ears.
This will be the logic that entrants will argue for years to come: The pie will continue to grow, and we’ll continue to get our fair share. It very likely will be true for Netflix. It won’t be true for all.
New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez partially is quitting Facebook. This is likely a bigger deal than it might seem. She is a naturally gifted communicator, at least the equal of the more experienced television personality in the White House, and she is an impactful user of social media. If she’s done with Facebook, can her cohort be far behind?
Ain’t gonna study war no more. After more than two years of fighting, Apple and Qualcomm opted for peace. Under a six-year deal, Apple will resume buying mobile modem chips for the iPhone from Qualcomm and pay an undisclosed amount to cover previously unpaid royalties. Apple’s current modem supplier, Intel, which was struggling to develop a 5G product, says it will drop out of the business altogether. Expect a 5G iPhone for 2020 backed by a Qualcomm modem. While Apple’s stock price was unaffected by the news, Qualcomm’s has since risen a total of more than 30%. Intel investors, seemingly sick of the company banging its head against the 5G wall, pushed its stock up 4% in premarket trading.
We’ll keep on fighting, til the end. The proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint may be in trouble-or not. Staff at the Justice Department aren’t satisfied with how the deal is structured, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. But T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeted that the premise of the story was “simply untrue” and former Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure chimed in that the story was “inaccurate” because negotiations with the regulators continue. The truth may be that the staff is seeking concessions that the carriers are willing to make, such as spinning off some prepaid cellular business.
Shrinking in plain sight. Elsewhere on Wall Street, IBM said its revenue dropped for the third quarter in a row. At $18.2 billion, sales shrunk by 5% and were slightly less than analysts expected. IBM shares fell 3% in premarket trading on Wednesday. The public tech sector will continue to expand this week, with initial public offerings expected to debut in trading on Friday from Pinterest and Zoom.
Missing in action. The A.I. industry has a diversity problem, according to a new report from the nonprofit AI Now Institute. Only 20% of A.I. professors are women, while women make up 15% of Facebook’s A.I. research staff and 10% at Google.
Answering the call. In yesterday’s essay, Adam noted that founders of big tech companies rarely go quietly, referring to Foxconn founder Terry Gou. That quickly proved true, as Gou announced he would run for president in Taiwan. If he wins the primary to represent the Kuomintang opposition party, he would stand against Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female President.
Incroyable. As the world reels from the tragic fire at Notre Dame in Paris and the French vow to rebuild the historic cathedral, it may be a video game company that helps come to the rescue. Intensely detailed 3D scans of the building made for the game Assassin’s Creed: Unity could be useful in guiding the reconstruction.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Starting with bitcoin, digital currencies were supposed to create a new world of finance free from central authorities and all that baggage. But the more time goes by, the more crypto markets succumb to all the typical rules and trends and flaws of old school markets. Bloomberg reporters Olga Kharif and Vildana Hajric have dug into new research showing that, much like on the stock market, automated, high-speed trading shops are culling profits from many digital currency markets by anticipating the trades of ordinary investors:
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BEFORE YOU GO
Here’s one of those tech tales that seems too insane to be true. Tech blogger Alistair Wooldridge was having problems with his 2014 MacBook Air not booting. So after checking around on the Internet, he did what any tech tinkerer would do: he baked it. In an oven. At 350 degrees. “Unsurprisingly, gently baked MacBook doesn’t smell particularly delicious,” he notes. It got a lot worse from there.