Cisco Systems bought a 12-year-old startup Wednesday called Jasper Technologies which is involved in something called the Internet of things. I think this is a perfectly good time to predict the end of the expression the Internet of things.
Permit me to explain. Jasper is a Silicon Valley company that makes a platform for wirelessly connecting devices such as cars and vending machines with those who service them. This is a natural fit for Cisco, which for decades has been the industry leader in equipment that connects machines and networks to the Internet. The “things” part of the faddish marketing slogan is a wink that it’s not just computers and telecommunications networks that are being connected anymore. Rather, any device in which a sensor can be embedded can now be connected.
The opportunities are mind-boggling, from remote temperature control to automatic detergent replenishment. Eventually what product-management types call “use cases” will even become meaningful and important.
Cisco and plenty of others take all this quite seriously. It is paying $1.4 billion for Jasper, even though the company’s revenues are said to be only around $300 million. As well, Jasper competes against Ericsson, Cisco’s new partner. A story for another day is why Jasper is selling for an amount equal to its latest private-market funding round, suggesting a return of about nothing for its most recent investors.
So if all this is so great, why do I predict—and not for the first time—doom for the sloganeering around this trend? My hunch is that devices connected wirelessly by sensors will shortly become so pervasive as to become commonplace and therefore no longer in need of differentiated messaging. There’s just one Internet, a vague term to begin with, and everything is connected to it.
The fracas over whether a real estate executive misspoke about Amazon.com developing a chain of more than 300 retail stores to sell books and devices calls to mind journalist Michael Kinsley’s famous quip about gaffes by politicians: They are truths their speakers didn’t intend to utter. It’s certainly possible that the CEO of General Growth Properties pulled the number of stores Amazon intends to open out of thin air. As Fortune’s Leena Rao reports, however, that’s unlikely.
BITS AND BYTES
Toshiba anticipates $6 billion loss, its largest ever. The 140-year-old Japanese electronics conglomerate, reeling from an accounting scandal, is restructuring to focus on core businesses in flash memory and nuclear power plants. It previously predicted a shortfall of about $4.7 billion for its current fiscal year, which ends March 31. To raise cash, Toshiba is selling its personal computer, home appliances, and medical equipment divisions. (Wall Street Journal)
Sharp leans toward Foxconn’s $5.1 billion takeover bid. Japan’s largest producer of liquid crystal displays, which has lost more than $10 billion over the past five years, expects to decide between two offers within the next month. Its prospective white knights include Taiwanese contract manufacture Foxconn (known for making iPhones) and government-backed Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ). On paper, Foxconn’s offer is larger, but INCJ has valuable Japanese bank connections. (New York Times)
Google’s search guru steps down. Amit Singhal, who has managed Google’s search engineering team for 15 years, is retiring in late February to spend more time on philanthropy. His replacement is John Giannandrea, Google’s head of machine learning. The shift signals Google’s growing reliance on artificial intelligence to shape its software algorithms. (Fortune)
Can GoPro bounce back? The action camera maker’s latest quarterly revenue results were anything but action packed, falling 31% to $437 million. Sales failed to materialize during the all-important holiday season. Things aren’t likely to get better anytime soon. GoPro cut its revenue outlook for the current quarter to between $160 million and $180 million, down from an original estimate of $298 million. (Fortune)
Why Apple stores are selling Square’s latest technology. The digital payment company’s new chip card readers have landed on Apple retail store shelves. The deal could dramatically expand the reach of Apple Pay, enabling small merchants to use the service. (Fortune, Wired)
The bright spot in Lenovo’s third-quarter financials. Like many of its peers, the Chinese tech giant recorded slower smartphone and personal computer sales for its latest quarter. Its computer server and networking product sales, on the other hand, rose more 8%. (Wall Street Journal)
Apple owes $625 million to patent troll. Apple just lost a patent case and, oh boy, this one is a doozy. On Wednesday, jurors in Texas federal court ordered the iPhone maker to pay nearly $335 million for infringing on patents for secure VPN networks, plus another $290 million upon finding Apple’s popular FaceTime feature infringed different patents. The plaintiff is a Nevada holding company called VirnetX, which does not sell any products and has been dubbed a “patent troll”—a derogatory term for shell companies that make money by licensing and suing over patents. The trial, which has been taking place over the last week, is a do-over of an earlier 2012 patent clash between the two parties. You can expect Apple to appeal. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Another day, another IBM digital acquisition by Heather Clancy
Startups bought back $940 million of employee stock last year
by Andrew Nusca
How Google combats online terrorism by Robert Hackett
Fitbit’s newest tracker will keep you moving by Jason Cipriani
Zagg pays $100 million for battery phone case maker Mophie
by Andrew Nusca
This startup will help you find your next intern by Leena Rao
Tom Clancy enters the eSports arena by John Gaudiosi
Cybersecurity firm Skybox Security raises $96 million by Robert Hackett
Google should be glad it’s not the most valuable company
by Chris Matthews
ONE MORE THING
Like watching Super Bowl ads? Some of the tech companies spending lavishly on exposure during the game include T-Mobile (it always has something to say) and Amazon (hello, Alec Baldwin). (Re/code)
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy: