Good morning from Rome, where my Fortune and Time colleagues are hosting an unusual and exciting event: our annual global forum to discuss the most pressing issues affecting top business leaders around the world. Just a few of the brightest lights of the corporate and non-profit sectors joining us include IBM’s Ginni Rometty, Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation, and Yang Yuanqing of Lenovo.
This year we are honored to have perhaps our most distinguished speaker ever at a Fortune conference: Pope Francis. In fact, we will be his guests at the Vatican tomorrow. The Pope asked us to convene a group of business leaders so they could assist him in one of his core missions, alleviating global poverty. Our seemingly counterintuitive task is to ask a cohort of elite executives who typically devote their time and resources to making money to suggest how those with the least can get just a little bit more.
Technology will play an important role in our discussions. In fact, later today I will host a working group that will explore how technology and innovation can boost employment for those who need it most.
It is a topic that giant companies like Google and Facebook already focus on, partly out of self-interest and partly just because it is the right thing to do. That may well be a theme of our conference. Never has it been truer than in this time of global political turmoil that businesses can’t thrive if consumers, current and future, aren’t prospering too.
The working group I’m hosting will ask attendees to offer their suggestions for how to solve these problems. James Manyika of the McKinsey Global Institute, the giant consultant’s in-house think tank, has offered a few starting points for our discussion, which he will publish in full at the conference. They include some familiar goals: improving education, teaching technology skills, investing in digital infrastructure for all, and so on.
Our goal will be to turn these broad themes into concrete proposals that can affect people’s lives.
BITS AND BYTES
Intel, Microsoft, IBM decry China’s new cybersecurity laws. They’ve issued strongly critical statements about a new disclosure policy that requires tech companies to share their source code—the building blocks of computer programs—in order to prove their products cannot be infiltrated by hackers. For now, however, none have threatened to pull out of the lucrative market. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
Zenefits can no longer give away its software in Washington state. The ruling is a blow to the insurance startup’s entire business model, in which it gives away free human resources software to win over policy business. Zenefits said it will oblige by charging businesses there $5 per month for each employee. (Wall Street Journal)
Amazon: Our cloud is all you need. Over the past year, the market leader in cloud services has released several products to accommodate customers with applications spread among “hybrid” infrastructure—its own data centers and servers housed elsewhere. But the company’s chief strategist, Andy Jassy, is still encouraging key third-party software developers to concentrate solely on its service at the expense of rivals Google and Microsoft. (Fortune)
Things look good in Europe for the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal. The Wall Street Journal reports that the $26 billion deal should be approved by next Tuesday, Dec. 6, now that Microsoft has agreed to certain concessions. (Wall Street Journal)
Airbnb sets rental limits for hosts in Amsterdam and London. The move caps the number of nights that apartments or homes can be offered. It could signal the home-sharing company’s growing willingness to compromise with regulators to keep growing its business. Airbnb has run afoul of rental laws—and legacy hospitality companies—in New York, San Francisco, and many other cities that rely heavily on tourists. London is among its top three markets. (Wall Street Journal)
Are blockchain patents a bad idea? Blockchain is at a crossroads. On one hand, the technology, which promises to revolutionize record-keeping in businesses like banking and farming, is more open than ever with firms including Chain and R3 saying they would make their blockchain software code open to the public.
But there is another force at work that could close off access to the technology. That force comes in the form of patents as big banks and others file applications that seek 20-year monopolies over various aspects of blockchain. So far none have been granted, but a surge of litigation could be devastating.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Twitter hires a new product VP by buying his company. The social media powerhouse on Thursday announced the acquisition of mobile apps developer Yes Inc. The company’s founder Keith Coleman, a former Google executive, was named as Twitter’s latest vice president of product. He’s the fifth person to hold that title since 2014. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
Amazon hires another open source guru. Zaheda Bhorat, who previously worked for Salesforce.com, Google and the U.K. Government Digital Service, tweeted about her appointment from the cloud giant’s conference in Las Vegas. She will work alongside Adrian Cockcroft, a former Netflix manager who guided the company’s open source efforts. Cockcroft was hired last month. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Fitbit Might Buy Pebble But Here’s Why It Won’t Help, by Aaron Pressman
Salesforce’s Core Software Is Coming to Amazon’s Cloud Soon, by Barb Darrow
Telecom Carriers Are Resisting a Program for Low-Income Internet Subsidies, by Aaron Pressman
ONE MORE THING
This could be the geekiest sports stadium in America. The NBA’s Golden State Warriors hired consulting firm Accenture to outfit the new $1 billion Chase Center in San Francisco, slated to open in 2019. It’s crowdsourcing suggestions from fans, and a virtual reality app is already in the works. (CNET, Yahoo Finance)
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Elevate NYC: A cloud innovation forum. (Dec. 6; New York)
Consumer Electronics Show: An annual conference and exhibition dedicate to the business of consumer technology. (Jan. 5-8, 2017; Las Vegas)
IBM Connect 2017: Redefine work with Watson. (Feb. 20-23; San Francisco)
CIO Leadership Forum (West): Strategy in the age of digital disruption. (Feb. 26-28; Phoenix)
Microsoft Envision: Drive digital transformation. (Feb. 28-March 2; Los Angeles)
Google Cloud Next: Products and perspectives for developers and customers. (March 7-10, 2017; San Francisco)
CIO Leadership Forum (East): Strategy in the age of digital disruption. (March 19-21; Hollywood, Fla.)
IBM Interconnect: Tap into advanced cloud technology. (March 19-23; Las Vegas)