I had the joyous experience of touring a middle school recently—it’s something parents do—and after math, English, and gym class we went into a room that looked familiar to me from my childhood: the shop class. Except I misunderstood the purpose of the workbenches and tools. This was a robotics class. How very 21st century, I thought.
Wikipedia tells us that robots have been around a long time and that the word itself dates from 1921. (Its origin is Czech.) We also know robots have been the norm in automobile factories for years and even have reigned as canine pets, courtesy of Sony, since 1999. (Webvan and Aibo were born in the same year. Think about it.)
Now comes word that robots are entering a new phase of life, so to speak. IDC reported Wednesday that worldwide spending on robotics will nearly double by 2019 to $135.4 billion. (A question: Does IDC publish reports on the backward-looking accuracy of its forward-looking predictions?) Two nuggets from the report stand out. First, IDC says a crossover effect is coming to robotics. In other words, spending on software, services, training, and the like soon will exceed revenue from devices themselves. The research firm also flagged the two biggest areas of robotics expansion: healthcare and “process” manufacturing. The latter refers to making things robotically following a recipe, like beverages or drugs. That’s pretty cool.
Robots are everywhere. My current TV passion is the frenetic USA Network series Mr. Robot, which refers to a hacking organization, not a gadget. It is so real you won’t want to use your computer again. Oh, and robots are on the verge of having rights now, just like pets, according to Barb Darrow’s delicious report.
We’ve come a long way from shop class.
I wrote yesterday that Poynt’s Osama Bedier “started” Google Wallet, which isn’t quite right. He joined Google after development of the mobile payments product—by a group of engineers overseen by Stephanie Tilenius, now CEO of a company called Vida Health— already was well along.
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BITS AND BYTES
Apple could employ novel defense in encryption case. Did you know that software code is considered a form of speech under U.S. law? Wired reports that this loophole may help Apple use a First Amendment defense to resist a federal court order demanding that it write a weaker version of its iPhone software to assist the FBI in the San Bernardino shooter case. Meanwhile, Apple is reported to be working on even stricter encryption for future versions of its iPhone software. (Wired, New York Times)
Hiccup in Sharp-Foxconn takeover deal? The Japanese tech company said it will issue $4.4 billion in new shares to give Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn a two-thirds stake. But the iPhone maker wants to clarify certain terms, according to reports. The deal would enable struggling Sharp to mass-produce organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, which will be used in Apple’s next-generation iPhones, and it would give Taiwan’s Foxconn a much higher industry profile. (Reuters, Wall Street Journal)
Google CEO Sundar Pichai meets with European antitrust officials. The European Union levied a formal complaint centered on Google’s comparative shopping tool last year. It is still investigating whether Google’s strategy for the Android mobile operating system hurts smaller competitors. Ironically, the last time Pichai met with European antitrust officials, it was to complain about the dominance of rival Microsoft. (Re/code)
Microsoft finally buys mobile software specialist Xamarin. The technology will make it simpler for developers to create cross-platform software applications that run on a range of mobile devices. That could, in turn, boost business for Microsoft cloud services to help run them. Terms of the deal, rumored for months, were reported to be around $300 million. (Fortune, New York Times)
HP Inc. sharpens the axe. The company will lay off close to 3,000 workers this year instead of the 1,200 it previously announced, accelerating a workforce reduction announced last September. The move will save approximately $300 million. The revelation came after HP reported a 12% decline in revenue for its first fiscal quarter ended Jan. 31, to $12 billion. (Fortune)
Google and Oracle square off over Java. The case centers on whether Google must pay Oracle for using application programming interfaces related to the Java software development language in its Android operating system. APIs enable apps to communicate with each other and are integral for countless Internet applications. A copyright ruling in favor of Oracle could curtail their use. (Fortune)
Instagram has 200,000 advertisers, twice as many as Twitter. The photo and video sharing app only started selling ads last September so the ramp-up is impressive. Approximately 75% of its business comes from outside the United States. For perspective, Instagram’s parent Facebook has more than 2 million advertisers. (Fortune)
Salesforce raises sales guidance. The company, a bellwether among cloud business software companies, increased its forecast for the current fiscal year after beating expectations for the last one. It now expects revenue of up to $8.12 billion, a declaration that helped its shares climb 7% in afterhours trading. (Wall Street Journal, Reuters)
Tom Siebel tackles the Internet of things. If you’re into technology, you’ve probably heard of Tom Siebel. He first rose to prominence as an executive at business software giant Oracle before setting off on his own to start Siebel Systems, a customer relationship management software, or CRM, company. In 2006 he sold his eponymous venture to his former employer for $5.85 billion and started a new one, C3 Energy, focused on data analytics software for the so-called smart grid. But “clean tech” has fallen out of favor. So C3 Energy is rebranding itself. Meet C3 IoT, a sign that the electricity grid is just one application for technologies that improve the efficiency and functionality of Internet-connected devices. Siebel chats about the strategy shift with Fortune Senior Editor Andrew Nusca.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Google rolls out AMP, its version of Facebook’s Instant Articles
by Mathew Ingram
Dead unicorn flyers are warning Silicon Valley workers by Kia Kokalitcheva
One sign that marketing analytics are taking off by Heather Clancy
A third of new cars sold by 2040 could be electric by Katie Fehrenbacher
ONE MORE THING
Advertisers won’t benefit from Facebook’s new emoticons. The buttons allow visitors to express a broader range of reactions to posts in their newsfeeds. For now, at least, the data is lumped together. All responses are treated as “likes.” (Reuters)
This edition was curated by Heather Clancy.