Data Sheet—Tuesday, September 27, 2016
With boundless energy Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took to the stage in Atlanta on Monday to share the many ways his company plans to incorporate artificial intelligence into its products and services.
There was facial recognition for Uber drivers (to ensure their identity). There was augmented reality for Lowe’s customers (to ensure marital happiness during the home renovation process). He even revealed that Microsoft had wooed Adobe to its Azure cloud, a customer coup that put Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen onstage with him, two Hyderabad-born Fortune 1000 CEOs done good.
But the rest of the Internet didn’t care. It was too busy Tweeting about a CNBC report suggesting that Microsoft and Disney were duking it out to buy Twitter, that most beleaguered of social networks. Microsoft would not comment on the deal when I asked. There are some reasons why such a deal would make sense. But others suggest it’s foolish.
It was only three months ago that Microsoft surprised many by acquiring LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in cash. Critics quibbled over the price, far and away the largest acquisition for the Seattle-based giant. But the logic—that LinkedIn was the professional network that Microsoft could easily integrate into its business-minded product suite—was sound.
Twitter’s benefits to Microsoft are more elusive. The Jack Dorsey-led service is decidedly more consumer-oriented than LinkedIn. Its community and data are less relevant. And though Twitter has demonstrated a particular knack for customer service applications—why else use it but to holler at the moon?—it’s hard to believe Microsoft might consider paying $20 billion (excluding a premium) for something redundant at best and ill-fitting at worst.
A Disney deal is equally as perplexing, of course—why a company that specializes in creating content would entertain a platform is beyond me.
But if there is one thing that’s certain, it’s that Microsoft isn’t waiting around to find out. As the news broke, CEO Nadella was backstage in Atlanta, running through the slides of his AI-themed keynote one more time. His social network of interest was clear: the 22,000 IT pros assembled beyond the stage curtain.
Have a great day.
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BITS AND BYTES
Palantir catches flak for hiring practices. U.S. labor officials are suing the data analytics and security company, which is valued at around $20 billion, for a pattern of discrimination against Asian job applicants. The accusation is especially problematic, given Palantir's large dependence on government work. It's also unusual, since Asian engineers are often seen as better represented among tech companies than African-Americans or Latinos. (Reuters, New York Times)
Blockchain makes new friends. Lawmakers are creating a bipartisan “Blockchain Caucus” to promote laws and policies to encourage the development of crypto-currencies and other blockchain-related tools. Meanwhile, eight banks, including HBSC and State Street, are testing Intel-developed technology for bond transactions. (Fortune, Reuters)
Financial messaging service Swift reports more attacks. The network was breached at least three times over the summer, and malicious attacks continue, according to remarks by CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt on Monday. The company is mandating a series of security patches it hopes will address vulnerabilities. The $81 million stolen during a massive breach early this year has yet to be returned. (Wall Street Journal)
This mobile ad startup is commanding a $1.4 billion buyout price. AppLovin was bootstrapped into existence—with the exception of a $4 million angel round. The company just sold most of itself to Orient Hontai Capital, the second big Chinese investment in ad-tech in the past few months. (Fortune)
Germany puts halt to WhatsApp data mining plan. Regulators ordered parent company Facebook to stop collecting information about the messaging service's 35 million German users because of concern over digital privacy. (New York Times)
Yahoo hack draws Congressional attention. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner wants the SEC to investigate why it took the Internet company so long to disclose the hacking of more than 500 million user accounts. (Reuters)
Cybersecurity firm ForeScout preps to go public. The company is interviewing bankers to manage an initial public offering that could happen late this year, reports Reuters. There have been 13 tech IPOs in 2016, including Apptio, which fared well last Friday. But the security sector isn't doing as well as other categories, as evidenced by the performance of FireEye and SecureWorks. (Reuters)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Why Splunk Is Pledging $100 Million to Nonprofits, by Heather Clancy
Renault, Nissan Pick Microsoft's Cloud for Their Connected Cars,
by David Meyer
Square Debuts Speedier Credit Card Reader, by Leena Rao
Microsoft Again Pitches Azure as the Best Cloud for Business,
by Barb Darrow
Snapchat's Daily Active User Count Surpasses New Milestone,
by Kia Kokalitcheva
ONE MORE THING
Meet the man behind the world's biggest sports game franchise. Soccer fan and Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson joined EA in 2000 to work on a small surfing game. A brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he brings a fighter's mentality to the business world. “If we start every conversation with ‘what is good for the player,’ then ultimately we will all orient towards a single point of inflection,” Wilson says in the latest Fortune Unfiltered podcast.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.