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Data Sheet—Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 18, 2015, 12:35 PM UTC

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. Google’s Nest division is pushing hard into security applications, even though smart home adoption is slower than anticipated. Nokia’s former CEO just lost his Microsoft job as the result of another big reorganization. Plus, meet the mapping software startup allied with Pinterest, Etsy, Foursquare and (as of early this month) Mapquest. Have a productive Thursday!


Nest’s next big thing: home surveillance. Evidence suggests interest in smart homes may be waning. But this hasn’t deterred the Google company from playing up security and safety applications. The latest come courtesy of the $199 Nest Cam video camera and other upgrades to its device line. (The camera is based on technology that Nest bought from Dropcam last year.) Even more exciting: the new home insurance policies made possible through the data gathered by the Nest devices. Initial partners include American Family Insurance and Liberty Mutual Insurance.


Satya Nadella just cleaned house (again) at Microsoft. Former CEO Nokia Stephen Elop is out, along with Kirill Tatarinov (who oversaw the Dynamics business management applications) and Eric Rudder (who formerly managed server software and development tools). Mark Penn, creator of the infamous “Scroogled” ad campaign poking fun at Google, is also gone. He’s recasting himself as a digital media investor. Nadella’s note to the Microsoft staff ties the departures to a restructuring that organizes engineering into three main groups.

Fitbit’s pretty-darn-healthy IPO. The fitness band company ended its IPO day with close to a $4.1 billion valuation, after pricing its stock debut even higher than anticipated. The company raised almost $740 million, but there could be even more to come.

The real villains in Oracle’s cloud strategy? The enterprise software giant is more interested in beating rivals like Salesforce or Workday than in trying to take on Amazon Web Services in a bloody battle for public cloud market share. Get ready to hear more about its plan starting next week. Meanwhile, the company continues to struggle with the financial transition. The good news: cloud services growth was healthy for Oracle’s latest quarter. The bad news: they account for just 5% of revenue.

How does Airbnb justify its $24 billion valuation? It could generate almost $900 million in revenue this year, more than triple its sales from 2013. This revelation comes courtesy of The Wall Street Journal, which cites sources who have knowledge of the company’s ongoing fundraising discussions.

“Unlimited means unlimited.” AT&T will be fined $100 million for throttling users of its unlimited data plans and (subsequently) penalizing those who broke their contracts as a result. Let this be a lesson to Verizon, Sprint and other wireless carriers that are loose with service descriptions.

Meet Pepper. The humanoid robot being developed by SoftBank and Alibaba Group should be available in Japan this month. “I think no matter you like it or you don’t, robots are going to be as popular as cars, as machines, as airplanes,” said Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma, during a news conference.


Meet the startup drawing maps for Foursquare, Pinterest and (soon) Mapquest

The mapping technology sector is navigating a serious directional shift. Uber is poaching Google mapping experts. Apple is acquiring location data specialists. And Nokia is seeking buyers for its digital mapping business, which could be extremely valuable for autonomous vehicles. This list of companies looking for a detour is long.

Software startup Mapbox is steering right into the thick of things. Its mission: infuse corporate data with geospatial and location-based context. Target customers include local retailers, real estate property managers, insurance companies—really, any business seeking to show patterns on a map.

“We build great maps, but that’s just the canvas for anyone to integrate real-time data and visualizations into their applications,” Mapbox CEO Eric Gundersen told Fortune earlier this week, when the company disclosed $52.55 million in new venture capital backing.

DFJ Growth was the lead investor. Foundry Group, which led an earlier $10 million infusion, is also participating along with DBL Partners. Thrive Capital, Pritzker Group, Promus Ventures, and individual investor Jon Winkelreid are also involved.

“Our backers are taking the long view,” Gundersen writes in his blog about the infusion. “They understand how location is fundamental to every app and enterprise, are watching the entire mapping space turn upside down, and look to a future of connected sensors and real-time data streams. This is about investing in the core infrastructure to power the future of location data.”

The five-year-old company graduated from training wheels by visualizing election results in Afghanistan and tracking malaria outbreaks in Africa. But its engineers now help some pretty heavy hitters in social media and the consumer Internet, including Foursquare, Pinterest and Etsy.

What’s more, earlier this month, Mapbox disclosed a strategic relationship with Mapquest, which accounts for about 20% of the consumer mapping business with about 40 million active users. The goal: make Mapquest’s maps far more interactive and customizable for businesses seeking to visualize geospatial data. Oh, and yes, make the company’s mobile apps more responsive.

Mapbox already tripled its workforce to more than 100 people over the past 18 months. Much of the new money will go into adding more new talent.

“This funding is squarely focused on growing the team and buying strategic data sets,” Gundersen said.

Marc Prioleau, a consultant on location-based technologies who sits on the Mapbox board, writes about the transaction in a blog post:

The variety of data sources in geo is exploding, driving a need for a new generation of maps. The pace is just going to increase as location-enabled sensors come on line. Ten years ago, maps were all about a navigation use case. We looked at streets, addresses, POIs, maybe a little traffic. That’s not true today. Today, it’s about imagery, social media, real time content, and much more.

Mapbox's best-known rivals include Google's business mapping initiative and Esri, a 45-year-old privately held geographic information systems company that sells technology used by more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500.


Cisco isn’t giving up on China. It will commit more than $10 billion there over the next several years, in the form of partnerships and investments in the country’s “industrial transformation.”

LinkedIn got the message about messaging. The social network is overhauling its communications services, especially its mobile app, reports The Wall Street Journal. Plus, it just completely redesigned Pulse, its newsreader app.

Square board gets some “Magic.” For his next trick, basketball legend Earvin Johnson—sometime media and food services exec—will become a director for the mobile payments company.

Intel bought another wearable technology company. Recon Instruments, which was part of the Intel Capital portfolio, gives the giant chipmaker a better story for head-mounted displays.

Meanwhile, Twitter is adding to its machine learning expertise. It acquired Whetlab, working on technology that has applications for object and speech recognition.

Spotify just hired a new CFO. Barry McCarthy’s resume includes a Netflix stint.

Ellen Pao may owe $275,000. That’s the amount a San Francisco judge thinks she should pay Kleiner Perkins in legal costs. A final ruling is expected Thursday.


Forget killer apps, start thinking about killer context by Stacey Higginbotham

BuzzFeed’s new app is everything the site isn’t: Short, news-focused and serious by Mathew Ingram

Who owns your face? Weak laws give power to Facebook by Jeff John Roberts

Samsung Galaxy keyboard bug exposes hundreds of millions of users to hackers by Robert Hackett

Meet Tesla’s new weapon, a battery scientist by Kirsten Korosec

Virtual reality, augment reality theme park being built in China by John Gaudiosi


Haven’t bought a Father’s Day gift? Some novel (but expensive) ideas for the middle-aged men in your life.


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)

.conf2015: Splunk's "get your data on" gathering. (Sept. 21 - 24; Las Vegas)

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)

TBM Conference 2015: Manage IT like a business. (Oct. 26 - 29; Chicago)

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