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Data Sheet—Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 26, 2015, 11:54 AM UTC
Fortune

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. To kick off the shortened workweek, Charter Communications and Time Warner are proposing a merger that would create the second-largest U.S. cable operator. Read on for what’s making headlines in the tech world this morning.

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TOP OF MIND

Time Warner is now engaged to Charter Communications, the regional cable operator backed by billionaire John Malone, in a deal worth about $55 billion. Charter proposed a merger previously but was thwarted by Comcast. With that deal off the table, the two hope to create the nation’s second largest telecommunications company with about 24 million customers. We could still see some drama: French company Altice SA was also rumored as a potential Time Warner buyer.

TRENDING

The designer of the iPhone and iPad just got a much bigger job. Jonathan Ive is now chief design officer—and one of only three executives at Apple to have the word “chief” in his or her title. The promotion means Ive can spend more time thinking about design across the entire company, including the company’s retail locations and whatever wondrous technologies are in the product pipeline.

Turns out Marc Benioff wanted more money. The latest scuttlebutt on the Salesforce takeover rumor is that Microsoft offered $55 billion, but the cloud software company thought the price tag should be more like $70 billion. The original source of this latest update is CNBC. For now at least, the talks are dead.

Twitter has been romancing newsreader app Flipboard, although the courtship may have cooled off, reports Re/code. Both social media companies could use something to re-energize their active user growth.

Have some empathy. What’s the emotional state of the customer asking questions or demanding help on your company’s website? IBM is testing machine learning software that could help live-chat applications analyze the context behind support dialogs and decide when an exchange should be escalated to a human agent.

Cloudy future. Or not. Hewlett-Packard’s cloud strategy may be progressing slower than previously thought. Then again, it’s hard to really tell with any of the legacy data center hardware vendors.

THE DOWNLOAD

Zuora analytics acquisition promises better insights for subscription economy

Here’s a rhetorical question: What’s the difference between a repeat customer and a subscriber? For a growing number of companies investing in digital commerce, the answer is “not much.”

Those are the organizations that well-backed startup Zuora is trying to reach with a forthcoming new business intelligence service that builds on its existing relationship management system, Z-Business.

The new offering, called Z-Insights, combines information from Zuora’s subscriber invoicing and billing platform with customer usage information surfaced with analytics technology from Frontleaf, which Zuora officially acquired in mid-May. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

The idea is to give companies tools that help them get deeper with subscribers, helping sales teams go beyond simply scheduling sales calls when an existing contract is up for renewal. Z-Insights will assess which relationships are most important, which offer the potential for add-on sales, and which are at risk. It could also be used to develop new pricing models.

The new offering, to be rolled out slowly starting in fall 2015, could help Zuora extend beyond its initial stronghold among high-profile companies that sell software as a service (SaaS)—the likes of Box, DocuSign, Marketo and Zendesk—into businesses building services portfolios that are tied to the Internet of things such as Honeywell and Schneider Electric.

“Z-Business is powering the best subscription businesses in the world, but in order to building compelling subscription experiences, our customers have told us they need better tools for gaining subscriber insights,” said Zuora founder and CEO Tien Tzuo, in a statement.

Constellation Research principal analyst Ray Wang noted:

“In the era of digital disruption, the companies that are winning have shifted from selling products to delivering experiences and outcomes that are authentic to their brands. Businesses must operate with a digital DNA and an intention-driven mindset to collect meaningful insights that help predict and deliver on subscriber needs.”

As of early March, Zuora’s system was being used to handle more than $42 billion in invoices. At the time, the company disclosed a $115 million late-stage investment led by Wellington Capital, Blackrock, and Passport Capital. That brings Zuora’s total backing to around $250 million.

 

ALSO WORTH SHARING

Want to view two apps simultaneously on your iPad? Multitasking support may be one hallmark feature of the forthcoming Apple iOS 9, reports 9to5Mac.

Look out Etsy, because Amazon is sending out invites for its own marketplace for handcrafted goods, reports The Wall Street Journal.

It appears Snapchat is also interested in e-commerce. The messaging startup is putting money into mobile shopping app Spring, reports Re/code. Neither company had a comment.

More insight from Bitly. Marketers are getting deeper insight into where shortened links are being shared socially and whether they’re viewed on a desktop or mobile device.

Don’t expect Windows 10 to have a big impact on personal computer sales. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich says the launch will help, but not significantly.

Droning on. Now, the Justice Department has a few things to say about how businesses should use unmanned aerial vehicles.

Extreme makeover. The enterprising networking company hopes to cut $40 million in operating costs this year, a restructuring meant to counter slowing revenue. Like many legacy vendors, the company is struggling with the transition to cloud services. Aside from downsizing, Extreme is stepping up analytics and other services that go along with its equipment.

Keep track of this. Virtual reality headset startup Fove claims a feature that rivals like Oculus Rift and Samsung VR haven’t introduced yet, eye-tracking software. Incidentally, Oculus Rift and co-founder Palmer Luckey now face another intellectual property suit. The plaintiff is Hawaiian company Total Recall Technologies.

MY FORTUNE BOOKMARKS

Amazon to start paying more EU taxes after pressure from regulators by Mathew Ingram

The bureaucrat who has tech terrified by Vivienne Walt

Self-destructing electronics are coming—and then melting away by Stacey Higginbotham

IBM brings business apps to the Apple Watch by Jonathan Vanian

Uber is battling one of its own investors for Nokia’s map unit by Dan Primack

How this company is using virtual reality to teach football by John Gaudiosi

Ford CEO wants to make a self-driving car for the masses by Verne Kopytoff

ONE MORE THING

Why did smartphone pioneer BlackBerry stumble so badly? A new book, Losing the Signal, details the Canadian company's spectacular fall from grace—set in motion by a small glass object called the iPhone and a betrayal by wireless giant AT&T. “I learned that beauty matters…. RIM was caught incredulous that people wanted to buy this thing,” remembers RIM’s chief technology officer David Yach, in an excerpt published by The WSJ.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

MongoDB World: Scale the universe. (June 1 - 2; New York)

HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 - 4; Las Vegas)

Apple Worldwide Developers Conference: Future of iOS and OS X. (June 8 - 12; San Francisco)

Hadoop Summit San Jose: Mainstreaming adoption. (June 9 - 11; San Jose, California)

Red Hat Summit: Energize your enterprise. (June 23 - 26; Boston)

Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 - 15; Aspen, Colorado)

LinuxCon North America: All about open source. (Aug. 17 - 19; Seattle)

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

Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 - 18; San Francisco)

Cassandra Summit: Largest gathering of Cassandra database developers. (Sept. 22 - 24; San Francisco)

BoxWorks 2015: Cloud collaboration solutions. (Sept. 28 - 30; San Francisco)

Workday Rising: Meet and share. (Sept. 28 - Oct. 1; Las Vegas)

HP Engage: Big data, big engagement. (Oct. 4 - 6; San Diego)

Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 - 8; Orlando, Florida)

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: World's largest gather of women technologists. (Oct. 14 - 16; Houston)

Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 - 29; San Francisco)

QuickBooks Connect: SMBs, entrepreneurs, accountants and developers. (Nov. 2 - 4; San Jose, California)