One way to gauge the meaning of what happens at the massive trade show CES this week is to focus on the products. Virtual reality systems, drones aplenty, bendable TVs, big-data solutions to complicated problems. These are just a few of the topics the techno-elite will jawbone about this week in Las Vegas.
I’ve decided to focus instead on who’s partnering with whom. Ford Motor’s elusive CEO Mark Fields got me thinking about partnerships with a comment he made to Fortune’s Kirsten Korosec on Monday. The topic was autonomous vehicles, but also Ford’s ambitious list of experiments around what it blandly calls “mobility.” Said Fields: “In some cases, we’ll do things on our own. Other times (we) will work with others. It’s about what makes sense for Ford.”
Well, duh. Of course it’s about what makes sense for Ford. The trick is seeing who partners well, who goes it alone, and who makes awkward marriages of convenience that everyone knows won’t work.
General Motors, for example, made a giant bet—even for GM—by pledging to invest $500 million in the Avis of San Francisco-based ride-hailing services, Lyft. This may prove to be a bold move by GM, an opportunity to jumpstart its technology presence in the next wave of the automotive industry. It also might be a cry for help, a sign that mighty GM needed to vastly overpay just to get a seat at the kids’ table of next-generation automotive innovation.
A hallmark of the stage-managed “keynote” presentations at CES is the partner segment, an awkward few minutes where the 600-pound gorilla of an industry shares the stage with another company that has something the incumbent doesn’t have. These kabuki set pieces are worth analyzing because they speak volumes about a company’s thinking.
As a side note, the organization that runs CES proudly has announced that Lyft and Uber will be plying the streets of Las Vegas this week. This could be a true game changer for one of the most logistically challenging conferences ever.
All hail innovation.
BITS AND BYTES
Dell nears deal for former Perot Services. French company Atos is the leading contender for Dell’s services division, with an offer of between $4.2 billion and $4.3 billion, according to Re/code. Dell is selling non-core assets to finance its $67 billion EMC acquisition. The reported figure falls short of the $5 billion it was hoping to raise on this sale. (Re/code)
Facebooks delays controller for its VR headset. The social media giant will take preorders for Oculus Rift starting Wednesday, with shipments expected before the end of March. But consumers must initially use a traditional Xbox One controller (provided through a Microsoft partnership) to interact with games, 360-degree video, and other content. Facebook’s widely hailed Oculus Touch, a departure from joysticks, won’t be available until the second half of 2016. (Fortune)
Windows 10 reaches 200 million downloads, and counting. Adoption of Microsoft’s latest operating system has almost doubled since October. The software giant is shooting for the 1 billion mark by summer 2018. (Fortune)
Intel wants to help keep your drone from crashing. The chip maker bought one of its partners—German company Ascending Technologies—that makes cameras that help drones avoid collisions. Intel believes the technology will be important for navigation in an increasingly crowded airspace. (Fortune)
Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent $17 billion union approved. French regulators have finally blessed the merger of the two telecommunications equipment suppliers. Shareholders approved the deal in December. The companies will start doing business as one company on Jan. 14. (Wall Street Journal)
Another bad-news day for Yahoo. The Internet company is closing its dedicated video division, Yahoo Screen, and folding related activities into its digital magazines. The group was central to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s “MaVeNS” strategy, also known as her mobile, video, native advertising, and social media plan. Meanwhile, a federal judge in Chicago has ruled the company must face a class-action suit over unsolicited text messages Yahoo sent back in 2013. (Fortune, Reuters)
Ford expands self-driving car experiment. This year, it will test a fleet of about 30 autonomous vehicles in Arizona, California, and Michigan. The pilot falls under the car maker’s Smart Mobility initiative, announced one year ago at CES. Ford has also signed up Toyota Motors for its dashboard apps. (Fortune)
Amazon discloses big growth for fulfillment business, tests loan program. The e-commerce giant handled shipments of more than 1 billion items for other merchants last year. The number of sellers using the service grew 50% in 2015, although Amazon doesn’t divulge totals. Meanwhile, the company is testing a new monthly credit program in the U.K. that lets consumers take out loans on big-ticket items. (Fortune)
7 ways AR and VR will change tech in 2016. Although virtual reality and augmented reality have been part of CES for years, 2016 marks the first time the conference has included a dedicated augmented reality space (encompassing 5,000 square feet), featuring companies like Sony Electronics, Voke VR, and Infinity AR. Microsoft’s HoloLens won’t be at the show, and it’s uncertain whether Google will debut Glass 2.0. Still, the CES gaming and virtual reality space (covering 22,000 square feet) has grown 68% this year and features 46 exhibitors, including Facebook’s Oculus VR, Virtuix, and NASA. Fortune contributor John Gaudiosi will report on the hottest themes. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Google paid $380 million for Diane Greene’s startup by Dan Primack
Mark Zuckerberg plans to run 365 miles in 2016 by Claire Groden
Is Apple heading into a ‘white knuckle’ period? by Don Reisinger
There’s nothing transparent about this startup’s holographs
by John Gaudiosi
Everything you need to know about new Wi-Fi for the Internet of things by Stacey Higginbotham
MakerBot replaces crucial—and flawed—3D printer part by Andrew Zaleski
Twitter invests in headphone maker Muzik—but why? by Mathew Ingram
Samsung’s Smart Control is a remote to rule them all by Don Reisinger
Activision Blizzard acquires MLG for $46 million by John Gaudiosi
ONE MORE THING
Veteran IBM software exec Steve Mills retires. The 40-year-plus veteran joined the tech giant right after college and was instrumental in convincing IBM to join the “open source” movement. Mills orchestrated more than 30 software-related acquisitions since 2001. (eWeek)
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy: