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Data Sheet—Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Last week, Twitter board member Evan Williams drove the company’s stock up a few percentage points by simply being asked a question: Can Twitter remain an independent company? Williams’ answer, a “no comment,” followed by a statement that Twitter’s board will “consider the right options,” sounded like a fiduciary duty statement to me.

The answer echoed Williams’ memorable answer to the same question at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference last year: “Blah, blah, blah, the board will do what it’s supposed to do.”

Fiduciary or no, the world interpreted it as Twitter indicating it is for sale. The company’s lagging share price jumped 6%. On Twitter (naturally), commentators joked that sale rumors were the only thing that could boost Twitter’s dismal stock price this year.

Why the rumors over a boilerplate answer? I blamed the fact the world wants Twitter to sell. It’s become painful to watch the near-constant executive turnover, negative headlines, and shrinking revenue growth. When I assessed the company’s future in a feature story this February, Twitter executives assured me that the company had turned a corner—the drama was over. Finally, 10 years in, the company was growing up, learning to execute, getting back on track.

That hasn’t exactly been the case.

Capping off a summer of even more drama around abuse on its platform, today Recode reports that Twitter’s board of directors will discuss the company’s fate as a standalone company at its board meeting Thursday. The article speculates about Google and 21st Century Fox making a bid, activist shareholders, and fresh rounds of layoffs. Regardless of whether Twitter is in play, the drama is definitely not over.

Erin Griffith is a senior writer at Fortune. Reach her via email. Share this essay:


Intel snaps up Irish computer vision company. It is paying an undisclosed sum for Movidius, which makes chips for image-processing applications. The aim is to combine this technology with Intel’s RealSense platform—which senses depths—for applications that help machines “see” their surroundings and navigate around them. (Fortune)

GE will spend $1.4 billion on 3D printing technology. It is buying Sweden’s Arcam and Germany’s SLM Solutions, which both make systems that use metals—rather than thermoplastics—for producing devices and components. 3D printers are most commonly used for prototyping, but these technologies could help the approach gain ground in full-fledged production applications. (Reuters)

Dozens of companies support Microsoft’s fight against gag orders. The software giant thinks the public has a right to know when law enforcement officials demand customer emails and other digital data. An extensive list of companies agree with that position, including tech giants Apple, Google, and Salesforce, along with some others you might not expect like Delta Air Lines and Eli Lilly. (Ars Technica, Wall Street Journal)

Why Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon are hiring economists. The science of designing and pricing digital services is complex, so they’re turning to specialists in consumer behavior. Airbnb, for example, is studying travel booking habits—and procrastination—closely. Amazon alone has close to three dozen openings. Ultimately, human insights will shape machine learning software and algorithms. (New York Times)

Automakers proceed with caution on self-driving claims. The Federal Trade Commission is scrutinizing the language companies like Tesla and Mercedes-Benz use to describe technologies that take over control of the wheel, automating actions such as avoiding collisions. At issue: What does “driverless” really mean? (Wall Street Journal)

Allstate uses drones to inspect homes. The insurance company is running an experiment in Texas to assess how the technology can assist in cataloging rooftop damage from storms or other causes. (Fortune)

Pure Storage wins do-over in EMC patent case. A federal judge has ordered a new trial in the companies’ fight over data “deduplication” technology, setting aside a $14 million judgement against the flash storage pioneer. (Wall Street Journal)


Headphone jack or not? The most controversial part of Apple’s latest iPhone introduction Wednesday probably won’t be anticipated new features like a new homescreen button but rather what might be missing (at least according to rumors): a place to plug in earphones. (New York Times, Ars Technica)


Here’s Another Sign That Snapchat Is Building a Physical Device,
by David Meyer

Will Google Be Box’s Next BFF in the Cloud? by Barb Darrow

Apple Should Get a Boost from Samsung’s Exploding Batteries,
by Aaron Pressman

Why Google Killed Its Modular Smartphone Project, by David Z. Morris

Amazon’s Voice Assistant Alexa Could Be Coming to PCs, by Leena Rao


What’s in a name? Security software pioneer and erstwhile presidential candidate John McAfee is suing Intel for the right to use his own name for his latest business venture. Right now, doing so would infringe on Intel trademarks. (Bloomberg)

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.

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