Greetings again from snowy Davos, Switzerland, where I am attending the World Economic Forum annual meeting.
I moderated a panel Tuesday morning about what impact buzzy technologies like 3D printing, the Internet of things, and artificial intelligence will have far in the future. I asked top executives of UPS, SAP, Siemens, HP Inc., and Accenture to imagine the world in 2050. With timeframe as air cover, their predictions were both interesting and discomfiting. A world where consumers could stamp out all manner of products rather than buying them from a manufacturer could wreak havoc on global supply chains, for example. More troubling still, employment as we know it would change completely in such a scenario.
Later I sat in on a panel about innovation and heard Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco, talk about the recent past: the tech-titan meeting he attended late last year with President-elect Trump. He said, apparently without irony, that the meeting was “lots of laughs” and also a constructive conversation around issues like trade, immigration, and taxes.
Then there is China. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s opening speech was the talk of Davos Tuesday. Political analyst Ian Bremmer told me he’s paying attention to “how much the world’s pro-globalization elites, most of whom are Western, believe China is becoming the driver of globalization,” a theme Xi dwelt on at length in his speech. “WEF and Davos are still dominated by Western values,” notes Bremmer. “But the west is no longer driving globalization.”
Bremmer is bullish on the technology industry, which he says “is becoming more relevant to the global environment, not less.” He thinks Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has “more influence over individual eyeballs” than governments do. “The citizen model is broken,” he says. “The consumption model is not.”
I typically ask Bremmer, whose job it is to monitor a troubled world, to offer some pockets of hope. “Latin America, generally,” he said, which interested me because I am moderating a panel on Thursday about technology in that region. He also thinks the “U.S.-Mexico relationship will not go off the rails” because Mexico “realizes it has no alternative” but to negotiate on trade issues with the new administration.
I’ll have more views from the mountain(s) tomorrow.
BITS AND BYTES
Mark Zuckerberg denies Oculus team stole VR technology. Facebook’s CEO took the witness stand Tuesday to testify in an intellectual property lawsuit brought by game company ZeniMax, which claims Oculus stole its secrets while developing its Rift virtual-reality headset. The case was brought shortly after Facebook paid $2 billion to buy Oculus about two years ago—on the stand, Zuckerberg said his company will probably have to spend another $3 billion over the next 10 years to make VR really pay off. (Reuters, New York Times)
Qualcomm runs afoul of U.S. antitrust officials. The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday accused the market-leading smartphone chip maker of using its dominance to require “elevated royalties” for patents. The move echoes similar charges in other countries, including South Korea. (Reuters, Bloomberg)
IBM, Microsoft CEOs downplay artificial intelligence’s potential to eliminate jobs. During sessions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, both Ginni Rometty and Satya Nadella advised other business leaders to consider AI’s potential to amplify human contributions rather than viewing it as a way to reduce their workforces. (Fortune, Computerworld, Wall Street Journal)
Hewlett Packard Enterprise will pay $650 million for Nutanix rival. Its latest acquisition, Simplivity, makes data center hardware that converges the functions of servers, data storage devices, and networking gear. It raised $276 million over the past six years and last claimed a $1 billion valuation as a private company. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
Toshiba may spin out its memory business to raise cash. The Japanese conglomerate is considering a number of options for the profitable division that makes its flash memory products, in order to help balance the multi-billion-dollar write-down it’s taking against its nuclear business. (Reuters, Wall Street Journal)
Oracle joins data center expansion race. The software giant, which has big aspirations for more cloud services revenue, plans three new server farms in the next six months with more to follow. The move echoes similar, recent investments by rivals Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google. (Fortune)
Verizon mulls cable deal to challenge AT&T-Time Warner union. During CES meetings early this month, CEO Lowell McAdam hinted at that telecommunications giant was considering a cable company acquisition, with Comcast or Charter Communications on the list, reports the New York Post. Such a move would counter the services that can be offered by a combined AT&T-Time Warner. (Fortune)
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Google exec heads for CEO post at toy maker Mattel. Margaret “Margo” Georgiadis, who headed Google’s North American operation and previously led the search giant’s ad sales, will take over her new job on Feb. 8. Her background also includes a stint as COO of daily deals company Groupon. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
It looks like Jawbone’s CFO is out. Jason Child, the chief financial officer who took Groupon public, left the struggling wearables technology company in December, according to his LinkedIn profile. The development sheds more uncertainty on the company’s fate—it’s struggling to compete against rival Fitbit and is spending millions on patent and copyright legal cases. (The Verge)
Samsung’s co-vice chairman awaits his fate. Jay Y. Lee, the company’s defacto leader since his father’s heart attack in 2014, reported to Seoul Central District Court on Wednesday. A judge is considering potential charges of bribery, embezzlement, and perjury in connection with the corruption scandal what resulted in the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. (Reuters, Bloomberg)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Here Are the Most Popular Apps for Secure Messages, by Jeff John Roberts
Donald Trump Loves Twitter and Plans to Keep on Tweeting, by Mathew Ingram
Is Lily Robotics the Theranos of the Drone World? by Jeremy Quittner
Microsoft Files Patent for Phone-Tablet You Can Fold Like Origami, by Robert Hackett
Some Verizon Customers Just Won’t Turn in Their Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Phones, by Aaron Pressman
Versace Family Member Wants to Succeed in Artificial Intelligence, Not Fashion, by Jonathan Vanian
VC Funding of Mobile Health Apps Hits an All-Time Record Last Year, by Sy Mukherjee
ONE MORE THING
This is still a lot of money for a connected juicer. San Francisco-based startup Juicero cut the price for its smart appliance to just under $400, instead of the $699 that it used to cost. The company said its test of that price tag last November on Black Friday was well-received. (Fortune)