Verne Kopytoff is a senior editor at Fortune.
I have to admit that I’m a bit jaded by some of the technology industry’s so-called innovation. After 16 years as a Silicon Valley journalist, I have trouble getting excited about yet another messaging app or service for posting goofy selfies.
That’s why it’s good to be reminded, like I was on Thursday, about some of the tech industry’s truly remarkable accomplishments—the kind that change lives. It came in a blog post from Google celebrating the 10th anniversary of Translate, its tool for deciphering 103 languages.
The service is used by people to translate more than 100 billion words daily: Arabic into Russian, French into Indonesian, and Persian into Polish. Language barriers evaporate by merely typing some words in a box, speaking into an app, or scanning street signs with a phone’s camera. Google makes the service look so easy. But of course, the tool’s technology is incredibly complex—albeit still imperfect.
I don’t mean to go on about Google and translation. I could substitute a few other technologies developed over the past decade that have made a huge impact, like Skype, Twitter, and smartphones.
The longtime joke in Silicon Valley is that many of the technology industry’s best minds are devoted to getting people to click on ads (or, more recently, entice hungry millennials to order takeout from one of the many restaurant delivery startups). There’s more than a grain of truth to it.
But still, more worthwhile innovation is coming. At least that’s what I tell myself when the latest hot and frivolous startup hogs the attention and gets the multibillion-dollar valuation.
Self-driving cars, although still a work in progress, promise to eliminate countless hours of wasted time behind the wheel and save lives by reducing accidents caused by human error. Meanwhile, clean energy companies are steadily reducing the cost of solar and wind power so that it becomes more financially attractive than coal.
So please, Silicon Valley, think big. Keep this journalist from becoming even more jaded.
BITS AND BYTES
Cloud business boosts Amazon to record profit. The massive e-commerce and web services company offered a respite from the string of weak results from other tech bellwethers like Intel, Microsoft, and IBM. Its cloud division alone pulled in $2.6 billion in revenue for the quarter, putting it on a $10 billion annual run rate. (Fortune, New York Times)
Carl Icahn sells all of his Apple stock. The billionaire investor revealed the sale in an interview Thursday with CNBC, citing concern over the tech giant's strategy in China as one of his primary motivators. At the end of 2015, Icahn owned about 0.83% of Apple's stock. His profit from the sale was estimated at $2 billion. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
Google hires ex-Motorola exec to run hardware projects. Rick Osterloh will be in charge of a new umbrella group that includes the Chromebook laptops, tablets, and communications devices such as the OnHub Wi-Fi routers and Chromecast video-streaming technology. Google bought Motorola's mobile phone unit in 2012, but then sold it to Lenovo. So this is a return for Osterloh. He will also be in charge of strategy for Google Glass, the company's smart glasses (aka augmented reality) technology. (Wall Street Journal)
Meanwhile, Google and HP Inc. reinvent the Chromebook. They have teamed up on a 13-inch model that carries a starting price tag of around $500. It's more powerful than most other Chromebooks, but costs just half the price of Google's high-end offering in this category. (Fortune, Ars Technica)
Respite for LinkedIn? The social networking service reported higher-than-anticipated business from recruiters and advertisers during the first quarter. The upside surprise buoyed LinkedIn's shares by up to 16% in after-hours trading. (Bloomberg)
Comcast wants to be the next Disney. The cable giant's NBCUniversal division is buying DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion. The deal will provide Comcast with content it can not only shove down the pipe that it owns into people’s homes, but can distribute in other ways as well, especially online and through streaming services. (Fortune)
Verizon to strikers: This is our last, best offer. Its latest contract proposal includes 7.5% in total wage increases, maintaining current job security protections and some changes to pension and healthcare benefits. The union is unimpressed. The strike involving 40,000 workers is now well into its third week. (Fortune)
Feds scrutinize PayPal's Venmo service. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the peer-to-peer money transfer app for possible connections with "unfair trade practices." PayPal is cooperating with the probe after it received an official request for information on March 28. (Bloomberg)
People are watching 10 billion Snapchat videos daily. That figure is up from "just" 8 billion views in February, underscoring the fast-and-furious growth rate for the mobile app. (Bloomberg)
Apple confirms identity of employee found dead on campus. The young employee found dead Wednesday in a conference room at the company's headquarters was Edward Mackowiak, 25, who was a software engineer. The official cause of death was suicide. (Reuters)
Why John Chambers is bullish on India. Fresh off announcing a $100 million investment into the country that will be doled out over several years, Cisco’s executive chairman and former CEO helped lead the first annual West Coast summit for the U.S.-India Business Council this week in Silicon Valley. In September, Chambers became the chairman of the group, which was founded in 1975 to improve business relations between U.S. and Indian companies as well both countries’ governments.
In an interview with Fortune, Chambers said he took the position after meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was impressed with Modi’s ambitious plan to modernize India’s technology infrastructure and spur economic growth. Modi unveiled an initiative in July that calls for creating a national fiber optic network to provide broadband Internet for every citizen, bringing cellular connectivity to rural villages, and investing in India’s electronics manufacturing sector. Chambers believes India’s big broadband projects could eventually help create a bigger workforce for the tech sector. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Target's new robot helper is busy at work in aisle 3 by Jonathan Vanian
Facebook shares hit an all-time high by Lucinda Shen
Oracle buys construction software specialist by Heather Clancy
It costs millions of dollars to protect Mark Zuckerberg by Don Reisinger
Etsy is no longer asking employees to pick a gender by Valentina Zarya
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone's Q&A app is back again by Kia Kokalitcheva
Apple's big iPhone health quest begins in earnest by David Meyer
ONE MORE THING
Shock yourself awake. Not a morning person? Want to quit smoking? A new wearable device, called Shock Clock, promises to change bad habits with a jolt of electricity. Pavlov would be proud. (Fortune)
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Qlik Qonnections: Business intelligence trends. (May 1-4; Orlando)
EMC World: What's next for digital business. (May 2-5; Las Vegas)
The Marketing Nation Summit: Marketo's annual conference. (May 9-12; Las Vegas)
Digital Transformation: Forrester's new forum for digital business leaders. (May 10-11; Orlando)
Salesforce Connections: Cloud marketing trends. (May 10-12; Atlanta)
Coupa Inspire: Rethink the possible. (May 10-12; San Francisco)
Hub16: Smarter planning apps for numbers-driven companies. (May 10-12; San Francisco)
Relate Live by Zendesk: Customer engagement strategies. (May 11-12; San Francisco)
Knowledge16: ServiceNow's service management conference. (May 15-20; Las Vegas)
SuiteWorld: NetSuite annual customer gathering. (May 16-20; San Jose, Calif.)
Fortune Brainstorm E: The intersection of technology, energy, and sustainable business. (May 16-17; Carlsbad, Calif.)
SAPPHIRE Now: SAP's annual conference. (May 17-19; Orlando)
Gartner Digital Marketing: How to move from vision to execution. (May 17-19; San Diego)
Gartner Supply Chain Executive: Creating a value chain. (May 17-19; Phoenix)
Google I/O: For creative software coders. (May 18-20; Mountain View, Calif.)
MuleSoft Connect: Enable your digital transformation. (May 21-25; San Francisco)
Twilio Signal: The developer conference for communications. (May 24-25; San Francisco)
Apple Worldwide Developer Conference: The Apple developer ecosystem. (June 13-17; San Francisco)
Red Hat Summit: The premier open source technology event. (June 27-30; San Francisco)
MongoDB World: For giant ideas. (June 28-29; New York)
Inforum: Infor’s annual user conference. (July 10-13; New York)
Fortune Brainstorm Tech: The world's top tech and media thinkers, operators, entrepreneurs, innovators, and influencers. (July 11-13; Aspen, Colo.)
Sage Summit: For fast-growth businesses. (July 25-28; Chicago)
Oracle OpenWorld: The future of the cloud is now. (Sept. 18-22; San Francisco)
Gigaom Change: 7 transformational technologies. (Sept. 21-23; Austin)
Workday Rising: Talent management in the cloud. (Sept. 26-29; Chicago)
Microsoft Ignite: Product road maps and innovation. (Sept. 26-30; Atlanta)
Dreamforce: The Salesforce ecosystem gathers. (Oct. 4-7; San Francisco)
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: The world's largest gathering of women technologists. (Oct. 19-21; Houston)
Drone World Expo: Commercial apps for unmanned aircraft. (Nov. 15-16; San Jose, Calif.)
|This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.|