I’m a buzzword skeptic. “Unicorn,” for example, a rare private company valued at more than $1 billion, is a description that outwore its welcome once there were so many of them. The “Internet of things” and “smart cities” strike me as cleverer marketing slogans than descriptions of trends.
In other words, I need convincing that the latest hot topic in Silicon Valley is worth the effort to understand. Reading Roger Parloff’s insightful feature in the current issue of Fortune, “Why Deep Learning Is Suddenly Changing Your Life,” I became convinced about the catch-all phrase artificial intelligence and its subset fields of study, including machine learning and deep learning, also known as deep neural nets.
There isn’t space here to do justice to this complex topic. But one quote from Parloff’s masterful story might convince you to take the time to go deeper. In discussing how thoroughly artificial intelligence will change how companies operate, Parloff quotes Baidu Research’s Andrew Ng comparing AI’s strategic importance to the Internet itself. Then Ng goes further. “AI is the new electricity,” he tells Parloff. “Just as 100 years ago electricity transformed industry after industry, AI will now do the same.”
Examples abound. Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO of energy-equipment maker Schneider Electric, says AI software is built into its products, performing efficiency and life-saving functions like predicting when machines will break. Anne Wojcicki, CEO of genetics analysis firm 23andMe, says state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms are built into her company’s offerings. (I interviewed both Thursday on a panel at the massive developer conference hosted by Salesforce, itself an enthusiastic proponent of AI.)
Even companies that tend not to talk about their inner workings are keen to show their machine learning prowess, as evidenced by this chock-full-of-details look into how Apple infuses the technology beyond its Siri virtual assistant. Lastly, there is this gem from Parloff’s feature: During a recent 83-minute earnings call for Nvidia, whose graphic chips aid deep-learning computations, the term “deep learning” came up 81 times.
Still not convinced this is paradigm-shifting stuff? Then you’re more skeptical than I am.
BITS AND BYTES
Coming soon: A $25 billion Snapchat IPO? The parent company of the ephemeral messaging app is preparing for a massive initial public offering that could come by March, reports The Wall Street Journal. Snap only started selling advertising last year, but it’s on pace to generate $1 billion in revenue for 2017. The company was valued around $20 billion at its latest funding in May. (Wall Street Journal, Fortune)
Cloud software firm Coupa justifies $1 billion valuation. The company’s shares touched $41 during its first day of trading—more than double the $18 initial public offering price it commanded. Coupa’s IPO echoes the successful summer debuts for communications software firm Twilio (trading at four times its $15 IPO price) and big data specialist Talend Software (up around 33%). (Fortune)
Big telcos fine-tune their cloud strategies. AT&T signed another big partner, Amazon Web Services, which will benefit customers using the carrier’s services for high-speed private networks and for gathering data from the Internet of things. Meanwhile, it looks like Verizon may have convinced data center company Equinix to pay $3.5 billion for the 14 facilities it has been trying to unload since last year. (Fortune, Fortune)
FCC scales back changes to tougher broadband privacy regulations. It appears federal regulators may be willing to let Internet service providers sell more of their consumer data to third parties than previously thought. The FCC is expected to vote on the revised rules, along with new guidelines pertaining to business data, later this month. (Wall Street Journal)
Facebook’s Oculus division plans new virtual reality headset. The social networking giant is developing a product that works in tandem with smartphones, rather than expensive personal computers. Facebook will also spend millions of dollars on VR software to help VR technology, which allows people to immerse themselves in alternate realities, become more mainstream. (Fortune, Fortune)
It looks like fuel cell maker Bloom Energy is finally going public. The 15-year-old company, which raised $1.2 billion to fuel its ambitions as a provider of alternative “clean” energy, has filed confidential IPO papers, reports The Wall Street Journal. Bloom’s customers include eBay, Walmart, and FedEx. One big IPO risk: the company’s reliance on federal and state subsidies to fuel sales. (Wall Street Journal, Fortune)
Here’s why Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff would buy Twitter. How would a “micro-messaging service” aimed at consumers theoretically might fit into Salesforce’s enterprise-software business?
During a panel discussion at the company’s Dreamforce conference, Benioff said one of the major trends he sees businesses of all kinds going through is the shift from a traditional one-to-many model for customer service and marketing—such as TV commercials—to a one-to-one model, in which companies respond directly to individual consumers using social tools. “One of the most exciting things that’s going on right now is we’re moving into a world where everything is one-on-one,” Benioff told Time Inc. chief content officer and Fortune editor Alan Murray.
That’s also why Salesforce will keep using Twitter’s data regardless of whether or not there is a takeover.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
GM CEO: Ride Sharing Is a Bigger Shift Than Electric, Autonomous,
by Katie Fehrenbacher
Google Suffers Setback in Age Discrimination Case, by Jeff John Roberts
Verizon Is Testing Drones for Providing Emergency Cell Service,
by Aaron Pressman
Ex-Yahoo Info Chief’s Startup Raises Millions, by Robert Hackett
The FTC Has Harsh Words for Patent Trolls, by Jeff John Roberts
ONE MORE THING
Inside Instagram’s new office. The photo-sharing app company had just 13 employees when it was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion. It now employs more than 400 people, who are moving to new digs complete with a library and photo creation area. (Fortune)
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Atlassian Summit: Tips and training for developers and project managers. (Oct. 10-13; San Jose, Calif.)
Virtuous Circle: The future of the Internet ecosystem. (Oct. 10-11; Menlo Park, Calif.)
Gartner Symposium/ITexpo: A gathering of CIOs and senior IT leaders. (Oct. 16-20; Orlando, Fla.)
DellWorld: Dell’s annual global customer conference. (Oct. 18-20; Austin, Texas)
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: The world’s largest gathering of women technologists. (Oct. 19-21; Houston)
QuickBooks Connect: Intuit’s third annual customer and developer conference. (Oct. 24-26; San Jose, Calif.)
World of Watson: The power of data, analytics, and cognitive. (Oct. 24-27; Las Vegas)
AI World: Business applications for artificial intelligence. (Nov. 7-9; San Francisco)
TBM Conference: Manage the business of IT. (Nov. 7-10; San Diego)
DevOps Enterprise Summit: Develop and deploy software faster. (Nov. 7-9; San Francisco)
Drone World Expo: Commercial apps for unmanned aircraft. (Nov. 15-16; San Jose, Calif.)
AWS re:Invent: Amazon’s annual cloud conference. (Nov. 28-Dec. 2; Las Vegas)