On a day when the next President of the United States treated the news media with contempt, Facebook accelerated its campaign to cozy up to the Fourth Estate.
As someone who has studied the company’s messaging through the prism of its CEO’s leadership style, permit me the opportunity to explicate Facebook’s corporatese. By “doing its part,” Facebook is acknowledging that it has been hammered for being a platform for lies, partisan drivel, and worse. “To enable … meaningful conversations” reflects Facebook’s tacit understanding that its platform is more echo chamber than discovery mechanism. As for “to be connected to each other,” that simply reaffirms Facebook’s core mission. The message: We’ll help you so we can keep making gobs of money.
As to the substance of its new project, Facebook promised three areas of focus. It will involve news organizations earlier in its product development, no longer treating the industry whose business it is gutting as an afterthought. It will invest in tools to help publishers thrive on Facebook. As well, it will invest to help its more benighted users discriminate between real news and the other thing.
It’s hard to assess Facebook’s sincerity here, but who cares? Facebook fears a backlash for having helped hollow out a news media that performs a service it isn’t willing to shoulder. If its response, heartfelt or not, is to grope in the dark for ways to help journalism succeed, well, that’s better than overtly showing it contempt.
Speaking of contempt, I’m filled with self-loathing for misspelling outgoing Sonos CEO John MacFarlane’s name yesterday, a day after screwing up Yahoo’s proposed new name, Altaba. Journalists fear such mistakes come in clumps. I’ll go ahead now and apologize for the next one too.
BITS AND BYTES
Alphabet grounds its Internet drone project. Google's parent company is shutting down the Titan initiative, which was looking for ways to beam Internet access to remote or rural areas, and moving most of the 50-person team to other jobs within its research group. Titan's mission suffered a big setback last summer, when one of the solar-powered drones crashed on a test flight. Project Loon, its effort to offer wireless services from giant hot-air balloons, lives on (for now). (Fortune)
Microsoft appeases data privacy advocates with Windows 10 tweaks. The software giant is changing the operating system's default settings to let people adjust how much data is collected about them and their usage habits. The move comes after months of criticism—especially from countries within the European Union—that it was snooping too much. (Fortune)
Chinese maverick Xiaomi is aiming for $14.5 billion. The company, once ranked No. 2 in global smartphone sales, slipped out of the top five last year as rivals like Huawei ate into its share. But Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun believes deals with "offline" retailers and Xiaomi's business in India—where it ranks among the top three mobile tech companies—will result in a strong 2017. (Reuters)
Workday wins over Walmart. The world's biggest retailer (company, actually) is buying a subscription to the cloud software company's flagship human resources applications, a revelation that buoyed its stock by 10% on Wednesday. (CNBC)
Yes, the PC market is still shrinking. Personal computer sales contracted by 5.7% last year to around 260 million shipments, according to the latest data from International Data Corp. That marks the fifth straight annual decline. Both IDC and Gartner on Wednesday reported a falloff in sales during the traditionally robust fourth quarter. Lenovo is still No. 1. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
But wireless headphone sales are soaring. It looks like Apple's decision to nix the wired earpiece in its latest iPhone model prompted consumers to make the switch. At least three-quarters of the headphones sold in December were of the wireless variety, up 50% from the previous year, according to market researcher Slice Intelligence. Apple's AirPods were a big beneficiary. (Fortune)
Peter Thiel dishes on Donald Trump. The President-elect's top tech advisor fields questions on everything from the Russian hacking scandal to Apple's future standing in an expansive Q&A with Maureen Dowd of The New York Times. Plus, why he thinks Trump and Tesla founder Elon Musk are similar: "They’re both grandmaster-level salespeople and these very much larger-than-life figures.” (New York Times)
*** Speaking of the soon-to-be 45th President of the United States, sign up for Fortune's latest newsletter Trumponomics Daily (debuting today!) for insightful business perspective from our lead Washington writer Tory Newmyer on how Trump's administration is affecting regulation, finances, taxes, the economy and more.
Tech CEOs present Trump with $1 trillion savings plan. When IBM CEO Ginni Rometty strolled across the atrium connecting her company's New York City office building and Trump Tower for a meeting with the President-elect's incoming administration and tech industry leaders last month, she had a report in hand.
The proposal drafted by the Technology CEO Council, a think tank of IT chieftains that also includes Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, and Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz, concludes that the government could save more than $1 trillion over the next decade by enacting certain tech policies. On Thursday, the suggestions are being released publicly. Fortune's Robert Hackett has the details.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Google Beefs Up Cloud Security Again, by Barb Darrow
Nokia Fans Might Not Have to Visit China to Get a New Phone, by Aaron Pressman
Instagram Doubles Down on Video Ads by Putting Them in Stories, by Mathew Ingram
Tech Site Vows to Fight 'Inventor of Email' Lawsuit, by Jeff John Roberts
Another Apple Product Designer Defects to Tesla, by Don Reisinger
The Next iPhone Might Be Mostly Glass, by Lucinda Shen
ONE MORE THING
New Yorkers will be the first to get Nintendo's highly anticipated new gaming console. Pricing and availability for Switch, which is billed as a hybrid mobile entertainment device, will be unveiled Thursday. Enthusiasts can preorder one at the company's New York retail location. The product could be more widely available by March. (Time)