As I prepare to leave Las Vegas, where the CES technology trade show is happening this week, here are some quick thoughts on what I saw and, more importantly, heard while I was here.
Netflix’s recent announcement that its service is now available in 190 countries is significant. International expansion has long been a rights, political, and bandwidth issue for Netflix—not a technological one. Already buoyant shares of Netflix bounced on the news, reflecting the optimism that this Silicon Valley innovator is a world beater.
Speaking of Silicon Valley innovation, I had an illuminating conversation with a company that counsels Fortune 500 organizations on transforming themselves into digital-ready operations. Its old-line clients have three general thoughts about the companies that are leading technological and business-model advances. First, they don’t understand how they achieve their success. Second, these older companies fear they can’t compete with the upstarts for talent. Third, they struggle to grasp the culture of Silicon Valley leaders, knowing that eventually they’ll have to replicate their untraditional ways.
I had a fascinating conversation with an old-line company with deep technological roots that’s hoping to come out in 2016 with a breakthrough product it has been working on for years. The news isn’t ready for prime time, and I only received a snippet, with a promise of more if all goes well. But it’s a good reminder that Silicon Valley hasn’t cornered the market on original thinking.
The headline items at CES—drones, autonomous cars, virtual reality, big data—likely will remain just that, headlines, for some time to come. These are out-there technologies that absolutely are on their way, but not just yet. These trends point to where things are going. Drones are a metaphor for our increasingly observed lives: Self-driving vehicles represent the relentless march of roboticization. Virtual reality is a new entertainment and information option, akin to the rise of 3D glasses at the movies. Big data is powerful, but efforts to bring data to everyday users will be the near-term benefit.
That’s enough of future thinking for now. Time to get back to reality.
BITS AND BYTES
Amazon now sells chips (no, not the edible kind). The e-commerce giant’s mysterious Annapurna Labs subsidiary is hawking a line of microprocessors—called Alpine—that can be used for equipment in data centers or Internet of things projects. The effort isn’t directly in competition with Intel’s high-business server business. Amazon bought the company one year ago, in part to improve the hardware underlying its cloud computing operations. (BloombergBusiness)
Exclusive: Intel absorbs embedded systems business. Intel is pulling the operations of its Wind River subsidiary—which makes technology for everything from medical devices to airplanes—into its larger Internet of things business group. Intel has pledged, however, to let it keep developing software for non-Intel processors. (Fortune)
Yahoo to activist investor: Be patient. The Internet company wasted little time Wednesday penning its response to a letter from major shareholder Starboard Value, which called for CEO Marissa Mayer to step down. The statement sounds familiar—the company is going through a “multiyear transition”—and promises more details later this month. One of the company’s action items could include a 10% workforce reduction, according to an unconfirmed report by Business Insider. (Fortune, Business Insider)
More ado about Apple. The company’s stock closed Wednesday barely above $100 per share, as investors debate its fundamentals. What makes the situation all the more puzzling is Apple continues to deliver “maximum performance” against its revenue and operating income goals—something that helped CEO Tim Cook earn $10.3 million last year, which includes incentives and salary. (The company’s retail chief Angela Ahrendts, however, is still better paid at $25.8 million.) (Fortune)
Fitbit faces class-action lawsuit over data accuracy. Talk about bad timing. Just as it’s trying to reboot its smartwatch product line with a new device called Blaze, the wearables company must address allegations that its PurePulse heart monitoring technology is inaccurate. The company’s shares lost more than 5% after this revelation on Wednesday, adding to the 18% plunge it logged Tuesday. (Fortune)
Pinterest adds first diversity chief. The social networking company hired Candice Morgan, previously with non-profit Compass, a group that tracks the progress of women in business. Pinterest’s goal is to ensure at least 30% of its engineering hires are women and 8% represent ethnic minorities. (Wall Street Journal)
Drone registrations add up quickly. More than 181,000 hobbyists have submitted information to the FAA’s mandatory ownership database since signups began Dec. 21. New market-size forecasts suggest that at least 1 million devices will meet the minimum U.S. registration requirements this year. (Fortune)
Microsoft puts Internet Explorer out to pasture (mostly). The company is ending support for all versions of its long-time Web browser except for its latest one, Internet Explorer 11. Microsoft is pushing people to a new browser called Edge, which is a component of Windows 10. (Fortune)
5 MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM CES
When did CES become an automotive show? Given all the talk about self-driving vehicles, connecting your smartphone with your dashboard, or using your car as a remote control for your home the question is understandable. Dell’s vice chairman Jeff Clarke even felt the need to defend personal computers and related gadgets at his company’s press conference to announce same. Here are some highlights from Wednesday, across a wide range of technologies.
- Would-be Oculus Rift buyers experience sticker shock. Few people expected the whopping $599 price tag set for Facebook’s virtual reality headset.
- GM’s latest electric vehicle: from concept to reality in 12 months. The new Bolt, due later this year, was designed with car-sharing apps in mind.
- Your next appliance will look nothing like your mom’s. From a robotic cooker to a droid-shaped refrigerator, here are six gadgets for your smart home.
- Under Armour flexes its wearables muscle. The apparel company introduced new fitness trackers and its first smart sneakers.
- Watson, I need you. IBM’s Ginni Rometty devoted her keynote to talking up the role analytics software plays in everything from Softbank’s Pepper robot to the aforementioned Under Armour footwear. (Wall Street Journal)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
What those reports about Apple supply cutbacks really mean
by Philip Elmer-DeWitt
5 thoughts on Faraday Future and its weird electric car concept
by Katie Fehrenbacher
Here’s how big the gig economy really is by Laura Lorenzetti
IBM’s software guru is calling it quits by Barb Darrow
Here’s why Formula One engineering is invading supermarket aisles
by Hilary Brueck
Meet the 3D printer that uses 2D paper by Andrew Zaleski
Amazon rings in the New Year with cloud price cuts by Barb Darrow
This billion-dollar company is entering the livestreaming business
by John Gaudiosi
ONE MORE THING
Let’s crowdsource a product! Indiegogo has created a new service to help large companies raise production funds, validate concepts, and rather ideas. (Computerworld)
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy: