Good morning. What’s behind those quickly quashed Samsung-BlackBerry takeover rumors? When will Hadoop software company MapR go public? Should your company test the new Facebook at Work service? These and other burning questions answered in the Thursday edition of Data Sheet.
eBay execs: Should I stay or should I go now? Those mysterious million-dollar paychecks that the e-commerce giant plans to give certain executives after the breakup with PayPal are (in fact) incentive for them to stick around until that actually happens. Among those who plan to split (voluntarily) after everything is complete: CEO John Donahoe and CFO Bob Swan. Fortune
Adobe, Apple stock buyback updates. Adobe just greenlighted another $2 billion program that will last over the next three years, meant to “return value” while it works on longterm goals. Right now, the marketing and multimedia software company’s market cap is around $35 billion. Wall Street Journal
Meanwhile, Apple is feeling pressure to raise the ceiling on its share repurchase program set to expire at the end of this year. Originally worth $45 billion, the target is currently $100 billion—but some analysts believe there’s a case for boosting that again to $200 billion. Fortune
Facebook enters business collaboration fray. It officially started testing a new corporate social network and collaboration service, Facebook at Work. The idea is to better connect colleagues, while keeping them “safe” within the firewall. Employees don’t get to pick who is in their clique, but companies are encouraged to sign up as guinea pigs. New York Times
New York mulls strictest data protection law yet. California’s standards for how businesses must protect “customer” information and disclose security breaches are the toughest in the nation. Now, the headquarters state for the financial services world will consider a law that’s even tougher. The legislation, which could be proposed today, increases both the scope of what type of information must be safeguarded and how far companies need to go. Meanwhile, more states are demanding details about the monster breach at monster bank JPMorgan Chase last summer. NYT, Reuters
POLICY & STRATEGY
Why would Samsung want BlackBerry anyway? In a word, patents
Both Samsung and BlackBerry quickly put the kibosh on a report Wednesday afternoon that the two are engaged in takeover talks. But why would the world’s biggest smartphone company pay a rumored $7.5 billion for a Canadian tech company whose glory days are past? Answer: Its rich intellectual property portfolio—especially all its juicy security innovations.
The excitement was triggered by a Reuters story that cited documents about the potential transaction as the source of its information. Samsung actually has made at least one play for BlackBerry before (in 2012). As to this latest rumor, the alleged takeover target was the first to refute that a deal is in the works.
“BlackBerry has not engaged in discussions with Samsung with respect to any possible offer to purchase BlackBerry,” the company said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. “BlackBerry’s policy is not to comment on rumors or speculation, and accordingly it does not intend to comment further.”
Samsung’s comment was shorter: “Media reports of the acquisition are groundless.”
At the center of the speculation is BlackBerry’s healthy intellectual property portfolio, 44,000 patents and still growing. Last October, for example, the company won at least 27 new ones—covering everything from conference-calling interfaces to touch screens to security features for wearable technologies such as smart watches, eyeglasses and fitness bands. Security continues to be BlackBerry’s biggest selling point with businesses. Just ask the Sony movie studio division, which “resorted” to outdated BlackBerrys to restart communications after its security breach last Thanksgiving.
Although it looked like the mobile patent wars might cool off after several settlements late in 2014, this year kicked off with a skirmish between Apple and Ericsson over patent royalties related to wireless communications. BlackBerry used to be pretty litigious: It even took on celebrity Ryan Seacrest over its keyboard! But these days it is more focused on trying to convince smartphone buyers that its technology is cool again. Or at least relevant.
Whether or not any sort of BlackBerry-Samsung deal actually happens, the development highlights next wave of innovation (and litigation) in mobile technology: one centered on access control methods and containing corporate breaches in an increasingly mobile world.
STARTUPS & DISRUPTORS
Big data upstart MapR eyes late 2015 IPO
When Hadoop data management Hortonworks staged its public-market debut in mid-December—easily closing its first day with a billion-dollar market cap—scrutiny of its two biggest rivals, Cloudera and MapR Technologies, intensified.
After all, the market for this rather esoteric, yet super-necessary software could reach $50.2 billion by 2020.
MapR (self-described as the “top-ranked” Hadoop distribution) has raised less money than Cloudera: $170 million compared with more than $1.2 billion. But MapR boasts more customers: at last count, more than 700 companies including the likes of Experian, Live Nation, Transunion, and Samsung. (In March 2014, Cloudera CEO Tom Reilly said his company had more than 300 paying customers.)
What is MapR’s differentiator? Fortune caught up with founder and CEO John Schroeder about what’s wining deals, and why MapR is prepared to file for an initial public offering later this year. Here are edited excerpts.
How important is open source for Hadoop adoption?
I’ve got customers with multi-million-dollar, several-thousand server deployments. Open source helps fuel that. It builds ubiquity for the platform and sets standards. … Hadoop is very early in its technology maturing, so it needs tremendous innovation.
Why is your 700-customer milestone number a big deal?
It’s good bragging rights for us. The deployments tend to be larger production deployments, more real-time, more customer-facing use cases. That’s where we focus our energies, and that’s how the market is maturing. Even in the last month, I’ve had two meetings with financial services companies, where they’ve said, “You know, phase one with Hadoop for us … involved a pretty easy set of requirements to fulfill. We could have used anybody, any free distribution. Phase 2 is real time, it’s customer-facing, we can really only work with MapR.” That means the market is coming in our direction with maturity.
What’s the latest update on MapR’s IPO plans?
We feel like we’re still on track for something late in 2015. We’re having a fantastic [fourth] quarter. Enterprise software tends to be very backend-loaded, meaning that we do about 80% of our bookings in the third month of a three-month quarter. [During the fourth quarter], we came into December with over 70% done. So, things are going well. On the preparation side, we brought in a public company-quality CFO almost exactly a year ago.
Looking into 2015, what’s your top priority?
We’ve got some significant product releases that are going to make it easier for customers to gain value out of Hadoop without building apps. You will hear a lot more around data agility. … Then, it’s about increased scale. We’re in 11 different geographies worldwide. So, we have feet on the street in all the major markets. We’ve got a good set of OEM partners that are expanding our reach. We’ve got public cloud partners like Amazon that extend our reach. Now, it’s about scale where last year was about coverage.
What’s the biggest obstacle for MapR?
Externally, it’s market maturity. We’re seeing the market mature exponentially now. Imagine what it was like to have a conversation with most customers about Hadoop even a year and a half ago. They’d ask me, “What use cases would a company like mine run on Hadoop?” Then their requirements would be very broad. They didn’t know if they needed real time [support], or whether the installation should be file-based, whether it was important if something like SAS [business analytics] worked with Hadoop or not. They were early in their exploration. Now, the conversation is becoming more specific.
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FOR YOUR INNER TECHNOPHILE
Driverless cars on public roads within five years! Mark your calendars to follow up on this prediction. Google is downplaying potential regulatory hurdles for autonomous automobiles. It thinks 2020 is a reasonable timeframe. WSJ
ONE MORE THING
Marriott: Never mind, you can use your personal hotspot. The giant hotel chain has backed off controversial plans to block guests from using their own wireless Internet access options. It’ll find other ways to boost your bill. Re/code
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
IBM ConnectED: Collaboration and digital experience. (Jan. 25 – 28; Orlando, Florida)
IBM Interconnect: Cloud and mobile strategy. (Feb. 22 – 26; Las Vegas)
Gartner CIO Leadership Forum: Digital business strategy. (March 1 – 3; Phoenix)
Microsoft Convergence: Dynamics solutions. (March 16 – 19; Atlanta)
IDC Directions 2015: Innovation in the 3rd Platform era. (March 18; Boston)
Cisco Leadership Council: CIO-CEO thought leadership. (March 18 – 20; Kiawah Island, South Carolina)
Gartner Business Intelligence & Analytics Summit: Crossing the divide. (March 30 – April 1; Las Vegas)
Knowledge15: Automate IT services. (April 19 – 24; Las Vegas)
RSA Conference: The world talks security. (April 20 – 24; San Francisco)
Forrester’s Forum for Technology Leaders: Win in the age of the customer. (April 27 – 28; Orlando, Fla.)
MicrosoftIgnite: Business tech extravaganza. (May 4 – 8; Chicago)
NetSuite SuiteWorld: Cloud ERP strategy. (May 4 – 7; San Jose, California)
EMC World: Data strategy. (May 4 – 7; Las Vegas)
SAPPHIRE NOW: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7; Orlando, Florida)
Gartner Digital Marketing Conference: Reach your destination faster. (May 5 – 7; San Diego)
Annual Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference: JP Morgan’s 43rd invite-only event. (May 18 – 20; Boston)
HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 – 4; Las Vegas)