There are only so many 4K TVs, connected cars, and VR headsets one can look at. CES, the annual gadget show in Las Vegas, is well under way. No breakout hit is apparent, but expected themes have emerged. Artificial intelligence will be more and more crucial. Every industry is in the tech industry now: If digital isn’t transforming your business, just wait. It will. Oh, and nobody seems to want to talk politics in Las Vegas, which is refreshing.
Some quick observations to end the week:
Amazon’s voice-activated speaker, Echo, already was a breakaway hit last year. Now it is becoming apparent that Amazon is winning in a second way, as other companies integrate its AI-driven Alexa assistant into their wares. Fortune’s Barb Darrow has a nice overview of the ramifications of Amazon’s progress. One key takeaway is that vendors that incorporate Alexa, like LG in a “smart” refrigerator, use Amazon’s industry-leading web hosting service, a growth engine for the company.
Gartner says about 30% of people in the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. who’ve worn fitness trackers don’t wear them anymore. That’s a tough business model, sort of like selling diet programs to uncommitted dieters or health-club memberships to January-only athletes. In fact, it’s the ultimate uphill climb, and it explains why Jawbone is receding, Fitbit’s stock is ailing (it’s now prioritizing “engagement” with existing users), and the Apple Watch is something less than the Next New Thing.
Three cheers for diversification: Samsung says its fourth-quarter profits will grow by nearly 50% from the year-earlier period to nearly $8 billion. The reason: Its chip business never faltered even as its smartphone business cratered. Apple isn’t nearly as diversified as Samsung; a major hit to its iPhone business would be far more calamitous.
Have a great weekend.
BITS AND BYTES
Apple is setting up shop in South Korea. India, not yet. The U.S. tech giant confirmed its intention and is said to be considering spots in the well-heeled Gangnam district of Seoul, including a location conveniently located near the headquarters of smartphone rival Samsung. But as much as Apple would love to open stores in the lucrative Indian market, it hasn't come to terms yet with that country's regulators. (Wall Street Journal, Reuters)
FTC sues network-gear maker D-Link over lax security measures. The U.S. trade commission says the company's routers and Internet-connected cameras are more susceptible to hackers than D-Link advertises. (Reuters)
Bitcoin rally comes to screeching halt. Prices for the cryptocurrency fell 20% on Thursday after reaching an all-time high of close to $1,140 the day before. One culprit is a recovery in values for China's yuan. (Reuters)
Snap addresses lawsuit by 'disgruntled' former employee. The complaint, filed in Los Angeles, alleges that the mobile app developer falsified some of its financial metrics—although it's unclear which ones. Snapchat's parent is preparing for a much-anticipated initial public offering. (Wall Street Journal, Reuters)
These two big telco deals are far from certain. A senior Verizon executive cast more doubt Thursday about the company's pending $4.8 billion takeover of Yahoo. It wants a better deal, given revelations about Yahoo's two record-breaking data breaches. Plus, Bloomberg reports that President-elect Donald Trump and a key adviser think the $85.4 billion AT&T-Time Warner union isn't a great idea, even though they've been relatively silent about the topic. (Reuters, Reuters)
California adopts the toughest distracted driving law yet. The new regulation addresses the video conundrum—some drivers are peeking at downloads when their eyes should be on the road. And don't even think of holding a mobile device while you're behind the steering wheel. (New York Times)
Tech market researcher Gartner bulks up. It is paying $2.6 billion for another data cruncher CEB, which specializes in research related to human resources, sales, finance, and legal issues. (Reuters)
Japanese insurance company replaces staff with artificial intelligence. Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is using a system based on IBM's Watson technology to take the place of some workers who used to calculate claim payouts. (Fortune)
Score one for China's Internet censors. The country is happy about Apple's decision to yank The New York Times mobile app from its local marketplace. Authorities have been blocking the newspaper's websites there since 2012, after it ran a series of critical stories about then-prime minister Wen Jiabao. (Fortune)
Here's how Intel is finally getting back on track with Moore's Law. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich mostly went to Las Vegas to show off a bunch of new virtual and augmented reality apps at CES. But he couldn't help starting off with a dig at Intel's–and the semiconductor industry's–biggest doubters.
Standing in front of hundreds of reporters and analysts, Krzanich brought out an Intel-branded, thin laptop computer. There was nothing special about the laptop's design. It was what was on the inside that mattered: Intel's long-delayed Cannonlake chipset that is etched at a scale of just 10 nanometers, down from 14 nanometers used for currently available chips.
The physics of squeezing more transistors in the same space have gotten more challenging, requiring more and more expensive equipment and causing more delays. That's not the same as Moore's Law ending, Krzanich pointed out. And the need for expensive equipment favors Intel and other large players that can fund the huge new factories.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Former Salesforce Exec Tod Nielsen Is Now CEO of FinancialForce, by Barb Darrow
Medium's Future Looks Like a Blank Page After Killing Its Ad Business, by Mathew Ingram
This App Wants to Help You Trade Stocks Based on Trump Tweets, by Jeremy Quittner
Nvidia Gambles Big on Netflix-Service for Video Games, by Jonathan Vanian
'Inventor of Email' Slaps Tech Site With $15 Million Libel Suit for Mocking His Claim, by Jeff John Roberts
Dell's New Computer Is a Worthy Microsoft Surface Rival, by Lisa Eadicicco
ONE MORE THING
Tom Brady thinks you need a better night's sleep. The Patriots quarterback helped Under Armour develop its new line of sensor-equipped "athlete recovery sleepwear." The secret? The apparel is lined with bioceramic particles that supposedly help the body get more out of its natural sleep cycles. (Fortune)
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
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)
Pure//Accelerate: The future of data storage. (March 6-8; San Francisco)
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)
MuleSoft Connect: Connect apps, data and devices. (April 18-20; San Francisco)
JiveWorld: Strategies and technologies for workplace collaboration. (May 1-3; Las Vegas)
Build: Microsoft's annual conference for software developers. (May 10-12; Seattle)
Signal: Twilio's annual developer confab. (May 24-25; San Francisco)
Cisco Live: Education for technology innovators. (June 25-29; Las Vegas)