The gaudy, eardrum-splitting, orgy of techno gadgets known as CES kicks off this week in Las Vegas. From humble beginnings as an expo for device makers to preview their year’s wares for the merchants who will peddle them to consumers, the Consumer Electronics Show has become the single most important annual gathering of technology-industry professionals.
Devices like TVs and car stereos are still in abundance. And trust me, once you’ve seen one curvy 10-foot-long television you’ve seen them all. More importantly, CES has become a must-attend nexus for everyone selling or buying technology hardware, software, or services as well as the policymakers whose legislation and regulations affect them.
Seeing as every company is a technology company now, CES is for everyone. Marketers, for example, the folks who once created, bought, and sold TV, radio, and print ads, now need to be digital experts because that is the new medium for advertising. As a result, they will be in Las Vegas in droves, and it’s also why Fortune is hosting a dinner panel Tuesday night with the top marketers from Hyatt, Target, and the NBA.
For years a backwater section of the Las Vegas Convention Center has been auto row, booth after booth devoted to car electronics like tricked-out speakers and suboptimal navigation systems. Now, of course, automotive technology has captured mainstream attention, what with the likes of Google, Tesla, and Uber being automotive thought leaders. Ford CEO Mark Fields, whose company has been rumored to be pursuing an arrangement with Google—I incorrectly said last week Ford had announced a deal—will speak at the same Fortune dinner.
Much of what’s new at this year’s CES is what was new last year too: Drones, virtual reality, self-driving cars, wearables, big data, etc. (Shelly Palmer writes up some of the predictable stuff here, and the BBC has a far more in-depth CES preview here.) I’ll come back tomorrow with some specific suggestions on what to watch, and on Wednesday I’ll report on our dinner. On Thursday, I’ll offer some high-level observations on what I learned.
Happy New Year to all.
BITS AND BYTES
Lyft adds GM as investor. Uber’s big ride-sharing rival has raised another $1 billion, almost half of which came from new business partner General Motors. The new money gives Lyft a valuation of about $5.5 billion, more than double what it was worth last March. (Fortune)
Uber downshifts again in Germany. The ride-sharing company recently closed its offices in Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Dusseldorf after failing to recruit enough licensed drivers for its low-cost UberPop service. Many potential contractors find it difficult to overlook Uber’s original strategy of using unlicensed help. (New York Times)
Samsung warns of rough 2016. Without discussing specific details, the South Korean tech giant said weak economic conditions will weigh on its core smartphone and memory chips divisions over the next 12 months. Analysts were already worried about the company’s fourth-quarter results. The new revelation sent shares tumbling more than 3.4%. (Reuters)
EMC reorg will cost $250 million. The giant storage technology company is restructuring ahead of its acquisition by Dell, a move that includes an unspecified number of job cuts. The workforce reduction should be mostly complete by the end of the first quarter. Dell’s $67 billion takeover should close by mid-year. (Fortune)
AT&T caves, will kill two-year contracts. As of Jan. 8, the carrier will no longer subsidize the cost of devices used on its U.S. wireless plans. Instead, it will require customers to buy them upfront or pay for them in installments. T-Mobile pioneered this approach in 2013. AT&T was the last holdout. (Fortune)
3D printing pioneer exits desktop market. 3D Systems plans to kill its consumer product, commonly known as the “Cube,” after just three years. The cost-cutting move reflects slow mainstream adoption of the technology. (Fortune)
Spotify faces $150 million lawsuit. The music streaming service was accused of copyright infringement by musician David Lowery, frontman for the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. The court papers are requesting fines of $750 to $30,000 per infringed song, depending on the number of listeners. Lowery’s lawyers have applied for class-action status, hence the lofty damage estimate. (Fortune)
Apple settles $350 million Italian tax bill. Local authorities across Europe are cracking down on how domestic and multinational companies account for profits. Italian authorities were investigating claims that Apple had failed to pay up to $950 million in corporate taxes between 2008 and 2013. (Reuters)
Meg Whitman will leave HP, and 4 other predictions for 2016. 2015 was a blockbuster year in which one tech icon, Hewlett Packard, split itself in half and two others, EMC and Dell, attempted to navigate a more-complicated-by-the-minute plan to combine themselves into one.
That dichotomy illustrates two world views roiling the tech landscape. HP’s journey exemplified the notion that it’s better to be smaller but more focused on key markets rather than trying to cover the universe. The Dell take, on the other hand, is that bigger is just plain better. Michael Dell is from Texas, after all.
With that in mind, here are Barb Darrow’s totally personal, non-scientific predictions about what will happen in tech in 2016. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Mark Zuckerberg is making his own personal AI helper by Geoffrey Smith
Why Alibaba wants Chinese shoppers to buy American by Leena Rao
Hiring more contract workers in 2016? Here’s one way to offer feedback by Heather Clancy
Tesla hits annual car shipment goal for 2015 by Katie Fehrenbacher
What’s next for bitcoin in 2016 by Daniel Roberts
Does your business need a drone policy? by Anne Fisher
Take a peek at the new Google Glass by Heather Clancy
Here’s why 2016 could be 3D printing’s breakout year by Andrew Zaleski
7 big tech trends of 2015 by Erin Griffith
Your cable bill is going up in 2016. Now will you cut the cord?
by Jeff John Roberts
5 productivity tools to keep you and your business on track in 2016
by Polina Marinova
How computers made brainy cities rich by David Z. Morris
John McAfee wants to make passwords obsolete by Heather Clancy
ONE MORE THING
Don’t walk and text. A new study laments the dangers of “petextrians,” pedestrians who weave along sidewalks with their faces glued to their smartphone screen. (Wall Street Journal)
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy: