Data Sheet—Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 26, 2014, 1:28 PM UTC

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. Apple’s market capitalization briefly topped $700 billion on Tuesday (a first for any company). Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard posted another disappointing quarter, and Microsoft apparently just got a big tax bill from China.

Here’s your abbreviated edition for this pre-holiday Wednesday. And now, off to find my shovel to prep for some snow in the Northeast. Thanks for making this newsletter so intellectually rewarding for me, and keep telling your colleagues and business partners to sign up! Wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving. I’ll be back Monday morning with the next edition.


Feels like the first time. Apple shares reached $119.75 on Tuesday, briefly making the company worth more than $700 billion. That's twice the value when CEO Tim Cook took over from the late Steve Jobs. For perspective, Microsoft is worth about $392 billion, while Google is valued around $368 billion. Plus, here's where the stock could go from here. Fortune

The slip before the split. Hewlett-Packard's sales declined 2% to $28.4 billion for its fourth quarter, slightly less than what its closest watchers expected. Results for its computer division were actually positive (they rose 4%) but enterprise technology (off 4%) and services (off% 7%) didn't fare so well. There was nary a peep about what it will cost to separate the company over the next year. "I've always said that turnarounds aren't linear. We're right where we thought we'd be," said CEO Meg Whitman last night on its conference call. Fortune, Reuters

Microsoft's tax bill? China's official news agency says a certain multinational business—identified only as "Company M" owes up to $140 million for "tax avoidance." The investigation centered, in part, on the fees that the company's subsidiary was paying to its U.S. parent in research and development costs. Pretty much everyone assumes it's talking about Microsoft, even though there's no official comment. Hmmm, an investigation into how Microsoft's subsidiaries pay each other. That also seems to be the focus of an IRS probe. Wall Street Journal, Reuters

Wait, can I use this Twitter coupon? Its new "Offers" service will let businesses insert deals into "promoted" tweets that can be redeemed right from a person's smartphone. New York Times

U.S. weighs in on Google antitrust debate. Some lawmakers in Europe are calling for a breakup—they don't want to wait around for a new commissioner to investigate the case. Legal experts (and Google's home country) worry that the move would set a dangerous precedent. "It is important that the process of identifying competitive harms and potential remedies be based on objective and impartial findings and not be politicized,” noted the U.S. mission to the EU, in an email sent earlier this week. WSJ

Netflix sues former tech executive. Its lawsuit against Mike Kail—now the CIO of Yahoo—alleges that he accepted ongoing kickbacks of 12% to 15% for arranging (and referring) contracts with Vistara and NetEnrich. Re/code

Home Depot's legal mess. So far, its massive data breach (revealed in September) has inspired at least 44 lawsuits in the U.S. and Canada. The fallout could cost millions of dollars more. Fortune


Social media makes customer service everyone's responsibility

Zendesk, Lithium Technologies and Conversocial are just three companies building cloud-based software closely associated with social customer service processes.

The people who use this technology often sit outside "traditional" support organizations. At least they have traditionally. Those lines are blurring, suggesting the need for a more unified approach—at. least that's the argument being made by Salesforce. With a product release earlier this month, the software company is pushing its own next-generation social "listening" software as a unifying layer for marketing, service and sales teams.

"If you get things wrong, customers have more ways than ever to tell everyone they know about it (as well as several thousand people they’ve never met)," said Mike Lazerow, chief strategy officer for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud and co-founder of Buddy Media (bought in 2012 for about $689 million).

Just three years ago, as an example, 45% of all customer inquiries for video game publisher Activision were handled by a traditional call center. Now, almost 90% are resolved through social or self-service channels, according to Lazerow.

Separate research conducted by Forrester Consulting shows that the number of people using Twitter for customer service requests doubled to 22% between 2009 to 2012. Obviously not the dominant channel to handle complaints, but one growing very fast.

Lazerow says social interactions should connect employees, no matter their role, which means listening to this activity shouldn't be a siloed function by some separate group of people. That's why Salesforce just integrated its Social Studio technology (which combines technology acquired from Radian6 and Buddy Media) into its marketing software cloud. I asked Lazerow via email to outline the benefits of this integration. Here's his complete response:

Organizations that embrace this approach will win. It’s that simple. Sixty-six percent of marketers say they see lead generation benefits with social media. Customers spend 20% to 40% more with your company, on average, when you respond to their service requests over social media.

When a customer reaches out to an organization, they don’t care which department they are speaking to. They are speaking to your brand, and they want a solution to their problem. The speed of communications has continued to increase and today’s customers expect increasingly quick response times. Social media offers efficient ways to resolve customer issues, if you’re prepared to effectively handle them.

If a customer calls your contact center, they provide your agents with their basic account information. When a customer tweets you a question or posts it to your Facebook page, their name and basic information is already available. Today’s social customer expects you to utilize the wealth of information their social accounts to personalize your customer service process. You need to understand who they are so they don’t have to tell you every time.


Uber reportedly valued at $40 billion by investors By Dan Primack

How Coca-Cola built a sugary empire, by outsourcing as much as possible By Bartow Elmore

Taser, rival think their body cameras could have helped in Ferguson By Ben Geier

San Francisco passes first-ever retail 'bill of rights' By Claire Zilman

New life for Aaron Sorkins' 'Steve Jobs' By Philip Elmer-DeWitt

Michael Dell illustrates the private equity paradox By Dan Primack


Bye, bye delivery drones? The regulations being considered by the Federal Aviation Administration would all but kill off plans by Google and Amazon to use them for delivering shipments. "If they were going to have one pilot for each drone, they might as well put someone on a bicycle and send them over to your house," one law professor told the WSJ.


Gartner Data Center Conference: Ideas for operations and management. (Dec. 2 – 5, Las Vegas)

IBM Interconnect 2015: Cloud and mobile strategy. (Feb. 22 – 26, 2015; Las Vegas)

Microsoft Convergence 2015: Dynamics solutions. (March 16 – 19, 2015; Atlanta)

Knowledge15: Automate enterprise IT services. (April 19-24, 2015; Las Vegas)

MicrosoftIgnite: Enterprise tech extravangaza. (May 4 – 8, 2015; Chicago)

SAPPHIRE NOW: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7, 2015; Orlando, Fla.)

VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)