You’d think from reading the business press—and certainly Data Sheet—that tech companies are the only ones worth talking about. Tech is where to find the dynamism, the growth, the ideas, the wealth creation, and so on, that powers our economy. Some of that is even true.
|This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.|
But the one thing the technology industry appears not to have a lock on is employee happiness. At least, that’s my read of Fortune’s annual list of best companies to work for in the United States. True, Google is No. 1, for the seventh time. SAS Institute is No. 8, and Salesforce is No. 23. (The list partly reflects employee surveys from companies that nominate themselves for consideration.)
Yet what jumped out at me is the number of non-tech companies on the list, suggesting that people like working for these supposedly static and old-line companies every bit as much. Acuity, pride of Sheboygan, Wis., is No. 2 and consulting firm Boston Consulting Group weighs in at No. 3. Grocer Wegmans Food Markets, a perennial Fortune “Best Companies” lister, at No. 4 shows that it’s even possible for a service-oriented, lower-margined company to make its employees happy.
Plenty of companies please their workers. Google didn’t invent the concept, though it likely took matters to new lengths with all sorts of freebies (food, drinks, bikes to ride around campus) and genuinely thoughtful employee enrichment programs like a robust lecture series. I wrote about Google when it made our list for the very first time in 2007, back when these perks were more novel—and also before I became a Google spouse. (I still love the headline on that article: “Search and Enjoy.“)
Alan Murray, Fortune’s editor, believes the chief quality our list illustrates is culture. Companies that have good ones make the list. Those that don’t—or that don’t apply—don’t make the list.
It is somehow refreshing to know that workers care about more than freebies and that sometimes a good job close to where one has put down roots trumps the Silicon Valley life.
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BITS AND BYTES
Intel, too, plans an augmented reality headset. The giant chipmaker is working on a prototype design based on its 3D camera technology called RealSense, reports The Wall Street Journal. The idea is to convince other tech companies to use it as the foundation for their own smart glasses. Augmented-reality technologies, which superimpose computer-generated images onto a "real world" view, are also a priority for Alphabet, Apple, and Microsoft. (Wall Street Journal)
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise tech chief talks up "the Machine." Martin Fink, who chatted exclusively with Fortune's Robert Hackett before this week's RSA Conference, believes powerful analytics technology is the most powerful weapon for keeping corporate data centers breach-free and malware-clean. One core focus for the company's next-generation computing platform, called "the Machine," will be cyber defense. The catch: It won't be available for several years. (Fortune)
Apple officially appeals federal court order. Just in case its position wasn't already abundantly clear, Apple filed its formal objection to a court order requiring it to assist the FBI in breaking into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino killers. Meanwhile, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Snapchat, and Yahoo are among the tech giants reportedly preparing to file official briefs supporting Apple's argument. (Fortune, New York Times)
Another day, another Cisco acquisition. Barely one day after it snapped up cloud computing company CliQr for $260 million, the networking giant announced plans to buy mysterious Israel chipmaker Leaba Semiconductor for $320 million. The investment in specialty processors, designed for specific tasks, could help Cisco counter the ongoing commodification of its traditional hardware business. (Fortune)
Messaging startup Slack seeks more funds. Slack Technologies is raising another $150 million to $300 million in venture backing, a round that would boost the fast-growing messaging software company's valuation to $3.5 billion to $4 billion, reports Bloomberg. As of its last round in April 2015, Slack was valued around $2.8 billion. It is using at least some of its existing capital to help fund potential partners. (Bloomberg)
Flash storage pioneer beats expectations. Pure Storage doubled revenue for its fourth quarter ended Jan. 31, surpassing $150 million. Just as significant: The company was cash-flow positive for the first time in its six-year existence. Pure, which specializes in data center applications, went public last October. (Wall Street Journal)
LinkedIn CEO donates $14 million stock bonus to employees. Jeff Weiner is putting all the grants he would have received for his 2016 compensation back into the employee equity pool, according to a regulatory filing. The gesture is meant to boost morale. LinkedIn shares have lost 40% of their value this year. (Re/code)
Alphabet's Eric Schmidt schools the Pentagon on innovation. Schmidt will lead the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, along with about a dozen people who can teach the U.S Department of Defense how to develop and adopt new technologies more quickly. Schmidt, who was Google's CEO from 2001 to 2011 and is still the company's executive chairman, has advised the Obama White House frequently about technology issues. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
Facebook may be playing catch-up on video, but it's going all in. Figuring out where some social media services are headed is difficult because they seem to be going in half a dozen different directions at once. But that’s not a problem with Facebook.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it crystal clear for some time that he sees video—and particularly live mobile video—as the future, and the social network is busy doubling down on that bet. For one thing, video is a very important way for the social network to lure more small and midsize businesses to the platform—with the goal of turning them into paying customers. Fortune's Mathew Ingram explains why Facebook's decision to wait until video became "obvious" may have been a very prescient move.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Boom! Goes the hoverboard fad by Scott Cendrowski
IBM debuts Apple ResearchKit on Watson cloud by Laura Lorenzetti
Security fears drive big companies to cloud, Box CEO says
by Heather Clancy
Meet goTenna, a gadget that lets you text without a cell signal
by Valentina Zarya
Slack speaks up about voice calls by Heather Clancy
Data breaches fell in 2015 by Chris Morris
Should you worry about your car being hacked? by Jonathan Vanian
Google tests hands-free payments by Leena Rao
Apple's next iPhone may have two rear-facing cameras by Kia Kokalitcheva
ONE MORE THING
Silicon Valley, the magazine. Are you ready for a high-end glossy publication about the de facto center of the U.S. tech industry universe? High-end publishing company Modern Luxury thinks we are. (Re/code)