Data Sheet—Thursday, March 17, 2016


I write today in praise of focus.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.

One of the biggest enemies of any career, project, strategy, what have you, is a lack of focus. Apple under Steve Jobs was the epitome of focus. The company did only a few things at a time, said no to more things than it said yes to (current CEO Tim Cook frequently references this dictum), and even tried mightily to restrict what individual employees focused on. It looked for specialists, not generalists, and often reminded its people to mind their own business.

Focus is particularly important in the investment world. Investors typically set out with a thesis. An example might be to invest only in companies with fewer than 25 employees an hour’s flight from San Francisco engaged in enterprise software. Swimming outside such pre-established lanes is called “mission creep.”

I explain all this to highlight an extraordinary document out of Intel Capital, the venture investing arm of the chip giant, and some insightful reporting from Fortune’s Dan Primack. After Bloomberg reported that Intel Capital was selling some of its investments, Primack sharpened his pencil and learned a few details about Intel’s plan. He reported that Intel intends to sell as much as possible in its portfolio that doesn’t fit with CEO Brian Krzanich’s strategic priorities and that it hopes to sell the investments in one transaction. This means, Primack explained, that some beauties will be available simply because they don’t fit for Intel.

Intel more or less confirmed all this in a lovely piece of corporatese-laden prose, which Primack surfaced. It’s a fine example of an organization prioritizing focus over financial opportunity, the theory being that the former will lead to even more of the latter.

You might try applying this in your business life. I know I try every day.


A few people have asked about my interview last week with Steve Ballmer, in which he talked about the thrill of owning an NBA basketball team and the agony of being a Twitter investor. (Get that sports reference? You’re showing your age.) I thought I’d post a link to the full video in case you’d like to watch it.

Adam Lashinsky

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Make that three: Google wins some of Apple's cloud business. The tech giant now uses all three of the largest cloud service providers—Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google—to handle pieces of the infrastructure behind its iCloud services, according to several news reports. This is probably a temporary step, since Apple is building three massive data centers of its own. (Re/code, Fortune)

Maersk studies seafaring drones. The world's largest container ship company is considering unmanned aerial vehicles as another option for transporting small items—such as mail or spare parts—from ship to shore. The technology, seen as a way to reduce operating costs, could also be used for hull inspections or for hauling some cargo. (Wall Street Journal)

Morgan Stanley downgrades LinkedIn stock. The research firm believes it overestimated the social networking company's growth potential in large corporate accounts. More than a dozen other firms have reduced their LinkedIn stock estimates since the beginning of February. (Fortune, Bloomberg)

Google expands Twitter-style news experiments. The Internet giant is seeking ways to include more short, social media-inspired commentary in search results. The latest example is a service introduced in early March that lets local businesses create Google-exclusive "cards" describing their company to potential customers. (Fortune)

Apple mulls tighter iCloud encryption. The changes would put the "keys" for unlocking iCloud data into the account holder's hands, reports The Wall Street Journal. That would make it virtually impossible for Apple to produce that information for law enforcement officials—even if it was inclined to do so. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)

China's Baidu plans U.S. driverless car test. The company hopes to introduce an autonomous vehicle by 2018. It is exporting that quest to Silicon Valley, where it expects to find more resources to accelerate its efforts. (Wall Street Journal)

LivingSocial cuts half its staff. The e-commerce company, which once competed fiercely with Groupon in the "daily deals" business, is laying off around 280 people including a big part of its customer service team, reports Re/code. The plan is to focus the remaining resources on various customer-loyalty services linked to using registered credit cards. (Re/code)

Germany closes Facebook hate-speech investigation. The issue was whether the social network removes inflammatory comments against specific individuals or groups quickly enough, in compliance with the country's rigorous criminal laws governing hate speech. Facebook still faces German scrutiny over other business practices. (Wall Street Journal)


Why Sidecar stalled, even though it beat Uber to the starting gate. 

When Sidecar launched an app in 2012 that connected private vehicle drivers with people looking for a ride, Uber had been in business for two years but was only connecting riders with the for-hire, black-car drivers. The first of the true “ride-sharing” companies, Sidecar labeled itself as the “innovation leader” in the industry, and it was. It set standards for service quality and security, and it paved the way for the ride-sharing industry's evolving regulatory vision.

What forced the company to cease operations last December? In a Fortune essay on leadership, the co-founders of innovation think tank Deloitte Center for the Edge—John Hagel III and John Seely Brown—explore why Sidecar's strategy ran out of gas.


The 5 best smartphones you can buy right now by Jason Cipriani

Twitter finally launches Windows 10 mobile app by Barb Darrow

HTC's new virtual reality system will launch with 50 games
by John Gaudiosi

Handshake, the 'Salesforce of wholesale,' raises $14 million by Erin Griffith


Does Uber offer the lowest fare in your current location? The latest Google Maps update allows people to compare prices for local ride-sharing services with their giant competitor. Right now, though, that feature is available only in a few countries including Brazil, Germany, India, Spain, and the U.K. (Fortune)

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